Back in the box

She’s back!

I couldn’t stand to see her picked on, by chicks half her age!  No respect.

She’s so meek and mild.  I had a moment I wasn’t completely sure I’d grabbed the right hen, but I knew as soon as I put her in the box and she settled in for the long term, that it was definitely her.  She’s perfectly content with minimal living. Just eats and naps, eats and naps.  Looks over the edge with her telescope neck when she’s hungry.  Hey, I’m out of food here.  HW is at her beck and call.

I think if I can get her to broody, she’ll get all fierce as soon as she has some chicks.  Too mild for her own good now.

Hot dirt!

I dumped a new bin of damp, warm dirt into their dust bath, and the birds all but charged me as they came running and jumping in. The dirt flew.  Notice Philippe content in an outside of the bath bath. In Silkieland Snow White is hogging their private bath. And the roosters are good with hay baths it seems.


It’s a windy sloppy day and I have income taxes to wrestle with (bleagh), but I have my miniature crops to tend!

Look at those little celeries!  So cute, avidly swiveling every day to hug the sunlight.

This is my favorite time of year, when the windowsills are all full of seed trays, and dreams abound – Oh, there will be abundant, lush crops of this and that – as the seeds start to shuck husks and uncurl themselves, stand up and turn green.  Potential!

This reminds me of the intent of words:  Potent – potential, abound- abundance…

Winter Storm

Times like this I love that we don’t have power to go out, because it surely would.  We’re getting a storm more appropriate to January, not March.  After a month of no snow, lots of sun, and temps so warm I was able to feed my bees (so glad of that now), wham! Dumping snow, howling winds.

Sticky snow, that looks so cool stuck on the windward side of everything. The house is being battered by wind, but really, sound is dampened by the think blanket of snow on all the trees.
And in the peaceful woods, there’s a chickadee bopping around.  It popped out of one of the laden spruces, which strikes me as an excellent choice of hideout:And in the middle of it, some birds still avidly feeding.  From bed we watch the horizontal snow, and birds riding it out on the waving branches, beaks into the wind.

Chickens love snow.  They go at it like kids on ice cream.  I always have to throw in some snowballs. Cheeks’ egg laying face. Aw, taking a little wing nap. Chilling in the girl’s fort, hay bale style.

Box chicken no more

Little Boxy got moved out of the house today, back into the flock.  Reluctantly.  She snuggled right in to my coat.

HW immediately commented how he missed having a chicken in the house (to talk to!) when passing by.

She was a pretty perfect house guest, as far as chickens go.  So quiet and passive.

She got right back to her, hanging with the hay bale crowd.  Eat, drink, dust bath, sit on the hay bale.  She’s smaller than her sister, still, but she’s meatier now.


My licorice is poking up!  Three, maybe four have sprouted.  According to the very optimistic instructions on the seed packet (“germination is poor and difficult”), it’s lucky to have any sprouts  at all “hatch”.  I want to know if the tiny sprouts taste like licorice, but I’ll restrain myself.

Licorice is my experiment de année.

Then there’s the kale:Kale is so vigorous, and fast, and rugged.  I’ve never started kale indoors, nothing other than direct seeding, but, why not.  I like kale.

Rabbit Chase

(Us, at the window)

Hey, there’s a big rabbit out here.

Oh, there’s two rabbits!

It’s a chase!  Come look, there’s a rabbit chase!

There they go into the woods.  Oh, they’re coming out again. They’re chasing each other around in circles!

You know, they don’t seem to be too serious about it.  It’s kind of a half-hearted chase.  A bit slow.

They’re just going in little circles.

Oh, he caught him!

Oh.  They’re humping.


Well, they’re ready for spring.

Winter’s Back

I woke up to a blizzard and a handful of birds plaintively crying and fighting over the bird feeder.  Right at dawn- early birds!  Hey, it snowed!  There’s no food.  Only so many birds can get in the feeder at once. There was snow, and wind, and we had to go out multiple times during the day to refresh the food on the snow for the birds who were struggling in the wind.   They would sit in the tree all facing the same way so the wind didn’t ruffle their feathers, hanging on and riding the bouncing branches until there was too big a gust

Portraits of Puffcheeks

Puffcheeks is new here.  She’s my friend’s favourite chicken, god knows why I got entrusted with her, but she’s come to retire at my chicken rest home.  She’s a distant Auntie to Cheeks, my other Easter Egger.She’s always in the bath.  Except when I go in with the camera.  Then she hops right out.  Usually it’s her in the bath, often just her, and she’ll barely look up, while the other hens go nuts over the meal delivery.  Food?  Oh, do just leave it over there, I’ll get to it later.  Ta, dahling!Today I got a few closeups, the vast majority out of focus or blurred by her sudden movement. Hey!  Outta my shot!  I’m doing the modeling here!I think I caught her blinking – that inner eye membrane of birds.  Or else she has cataracts.Oh, how I wish this one was in focus.

One of these things is not like the others.  There’s been a breach of the girls fort.  There were layer hens in there, snuggled up with a bunch of Silkies in a bowl next to theri designated dirt bath.But it was a next-to-the-bathtub bath kind of day. They were all out of sorts.  Chicks outside, hens inside, roosters inside, all of them wanting to be on the other side of the fence again (except the roosters).

“Winter” “storm”

We’re having a bit of a wind these days.  It’s all we’re getting from the giant storm swirling off shore on the Atlantic.  No rain or snow, just wind. I don’t like wind.  I don’t like getting pushed and slapped around by it.  It’s tiring.

The wind wreaks havoc with my chicken yard fence, so I didn’t let the birds out, deliberately.  But naturally the door blew open while I was in the GH, so they all went pouring out and I had to patch up the fence for a bit.  They don’t like wind either, though.  It blows their feathers the wrong way.  They quickly retreated.House chicken (who needs a name) is still keeping such a low profile that no one has been talking about when she’s going to go back to the flock.  Every day she hops out of her box and hangs out for awhile “in her yard” (on the sheet of newspaper in front of her box).  She eats and naps and does a lot of grooming.  She does less sleeping now and more grooming than when she first got imported.  She’s also turned into a real turd machine, which I suppose is healthy.  Means she’s eating more, maybe growing.  I figured she would let us know when she’s finished living in a box, by getting restless.  But she’s the opposite.  Just incredibly mild and quiet, so we mostly forget she’s even in here.  So different.  I can just imagine any other chicken in a cardboard box for five minutes…

First tick!

Good god, a tick already?!!

A deer tick, first week of March! (On HW.   He was pruning fruit trees).  What is the world coming to?

Hello creepy crawly feelings of ticks walking on me, whether or not they’re really there.  For the next seven months.

I should have taken a picture before cutting the tick in half.  I figure no picture is better, now.

Guinea on the loose

Not too long after I let all the birds loose into their fenced enclosure, I’m outside and I hear a godawful clamor go up from the guineas.  Which isn’t by itself at all unusual.  But I knew right away it meant one or more was out.  OMG, we’re not TOGETHER!

Sure enough, there’s a lone guinea circling the fence, looking forlorn, and furtive, at the same time.I opened the fence, started chasing her/him around the GH to go back in.They never want my help though, and always go streaking off into the woods as soon as they get close to the opening welcoming them back in.

This one ended up pushing its way back in where the fence meets the GH, probably just like it got out.  It seemed to remember.

The most accomplished flyers, the guineas are always able to escape the fence and mesh tent intended to protect them.  I know they’ll at least return at night, and don’t worry about them.  But they do make an unholy racket when separated.

Where there’s life, there’s hope

My bees might just make it!  This weird, hot-cold “winter” can’t be good for them.

It was warm enough for me a couple days ago to take the lid off and give them a jar of syrup (amazing.  In February!), but I was sick with worry.   No bees outside, on a warm day.  I was pretty sure I was going to find a dead hive when I lifted the lid.  Ugh.

But instead, I found a black knot of bees around the empty jar!  Yay!  And hardly any dampness, or mold in the eke insulation, which indicates moisture.  In fact, it was more dry than last year. I gave them a full jar, put the the lid back on, and then the guard bees came shooting out while I was taping them back upHey!  You’re jostling us!


bird fight!

Snow White and Brown Bonnet had a knock down, drag out fight after I integrated Brown Bonnet and the littlest chicks into the girls fort, which I expanded, and put the covered wagon into.  Now the chicks can socialize, and the hens will lay eggs in the covered wagon.A big fight often always happens when hens that left the flock to brood some eggs come back together.  They have things to sort out.  This time, they waited until the afternoon to beef.Hen fights consist of one grabbing one another by the neck with their beak, and holding on for a long time, while each struggles to dominate with their neck strength.  Think thumb wrestling.  It’s almost exactly like thumb wrestling.Watch and learn, kids, watch and learn.  They both froze like this for nearly a minute, like the bell rang, panting and waiting.Then they went for another round.  Young hens are backing away…The fighters are the only two mothers in the room, I don’t know if that has something to do with it.And then it was suddenly over, and they each walked calmly away.   I have no idea who  won that, but I’m sure they do.

Chicken Day out!

Finally, I set up the hen yard fences again, and let all the chickens out in their yard.  It’s been maybe two months they’ve been crammed in the GH, and they are doing pretty well considering.  But I know they get frustrated being confined and in close proximity with the others.  They don’t all like each other.

This “winter” has been so strange.  Cold and then warm, a snow blanket, but only briefly, and then a big warm muddy week… the end of February feels like the end of April.  T-shirt weather.  I feel like I should be working the ground in the garden, and have to check myself- it’s the end of February.  In another year, there could be two feet of snow right now. Really?  We can come out?

Because of the weather weirdness, I could have had the hens freed in the yard two weeks ago, but didn’t, because I never wanted to set up the fence and then leave them.  They’re sure to find all the holes in the fence while I’m gone.  But today I was home all day.Oh, the bliss.  The hens came pouring out,  Leaving the greenhouse a ghost town. Real dirt, a quality scratching experience.  Direct sun!  The relief and joy were palpable.  All of us, including me, let out a big breath.  Peace descended like a light blanket. They were so pleased and relaxed to be outside.  I got to unscrew their chicken doors for regular use now, and they were so thrilled ot be out they didn’t even test the boundaries (except for one guinea, and that seemed to be an accident).

Now all the hens have muddy socks, because there’s a mud hole in front of both doors.

Thinking out of the box

I heard some scuffling, then HW blandly said “I think she’s ready to be out of the box.”He’d taken the netting off of her so she could stretch her neck up without restriction.  I thought this very promising, a signal that I could return her to the flock, if she was feeling spunky.She perched on the side of the box for a good twenty minutes.  Not too terribly spunky.I resumed my business.  I heard another scuffle, then silence, and I forgot about it.

She had jumped down, and was standing on the floor.  I gave her a local newspaper.We visited. I kept doing my thing.  She walked around a little bit, then settled in  on her newspaper.  I felt she didn’t need any monitoring, and left her to it. Not long later, I heard a third scuffle and checked.  She’d just hopped back into her box (where she settled down for a little nap and stayed, without confinement or supervision, the rest of the day).

Funny bird.  Her whole foray out of the  box was about a half hour long. 

Stewie and Perchick, sitting in the coop…

These two were hanging out in the small coop together, which is unusual.  They looked at me like I just busted them smoking behind the school, which was funny.  Then they shot out of there like they were on fire, not acting guilty at all.  We weren’t doing anything!  Nothing at all!

There’s a guinea in that coop.  They go in there every day, sometimes lingering, and I wonder.  Are they considering laying a few eggs?  (They don’t).  Are they just inspecting all the areas of their territory?

Or are they nostalgic?  This used to be the skycoop, and some of these birds were either born in it, or the hen who raised a brood in it.  This used to be my house.  Or, This was my chickhood home.  Guineas are funny.  In a weird, furtively darting way.  When they aren’t just yelling.  WIND, WIND, WIND!!!  VISITOR, VISITOR, VISITOR!Cheeks REALLY REALLY wants that food.  Because the grass is always greener.  It probably drives her nuts that they don’t eat it all at once. Hey, if you’re not going finish that- Then she gets her head stuck.  Cheeks has turned into a no-nonsense, bossy chicken.  She gets huffy and indignant easily.   And is a loner, like other chickens are beneath her.

The cutest little box chicken ever

I’ve never known a chicken to be so happy to live in a box.  It’s crazy.  She seems perfectly content to nap, eat, groom herself.  Repeat.  She eats breakfast and settles down into the hay for a nap.  Eats lunch, stretches out in the sun and naps.  Eats a snack, sighs, tucks her head under a wing and takes a nap.

I’m glad she’s eating.  It’s her only real job.  And I can feel her putting on weight.  But I do want to see signs of normal chicken behaviour, like escape attempts.  Scritching.  Opinions.  No, she’s just I live in a box now.  So the jury is still out on, Is she ill?  Or Is she just the mildest chicken ever?  She’s growing slow for her age, hence the forced confinement with snack bar, so maybe her mildness is a symptom of hunger?  Not the usual symptom of hunger. The only sure way to get a rise out of her is autofocus.  The green light makes her hit the dark far side of her box in zero time flat.  I’ll be looking through the viewfinder at her, lining up a perfect shot of her being cute, touch autofocus, and *poof*.  Where’d she go?   I failed to get many excellent pictures that way.  The only way I can get closeups is in full sunshine; that drowns out the autofocusing green light. Oh, falling asleep. Going… Gone.  No, I’m awake. See, my eyes are o….o…oh, back to sleep

HW shakes his head soberly and says I’m headed for a certain destiny of being a crazy chicken lady that has chickens in the house wearing diapers (Ok, I don’t think that necessarily correlates to mental instability, just sayin), but he loves her too.  She’s too precious, and it’s fun to have a quiet little poofy pet.  A purse chicken.

The Punks

For people, we want to be cleaner when we get out of a bath than when we went in.  For chickens….it’s pretty much the opposite.

The smallest chicks in the house are cute, and scraggly, with their sparsely feathered necks.They are growing independent of mom, or else she is tiring of them, I’m not sure which comes first.  I think she’s about to leave the chickery, like Snow White did.  You kids don’t need me any more, peace out.   I said so just before HW said he found an egg in the covered wagon, so that confirms that.  She’s done with this batch, on to the next.   The chicks are going to be transferred to the fort any day.  The kids are hangin’ out, in the shade.  Mom is out of sight in the corner flirting with her suitors on the outside.  This is the key sign.  She loses interest in her chicks, and suddenly becomes fascinated with the boys she has had absolutely NO interest in for months (the roosters never lose interest in them).

Hens are interesting.  They are extremely devoted mothers, until they’re not (coincidentally, this happens when the offspring look most like punks).  Then they revert to being single girls, until they’re ready to be moms again, and repeat the cycle.  Over and over.  While they are caring for chicks, they don’t lay eggs, similar to lactating mammals (which makes me curious about what’s going on hormonally for chickens, since they aren’t lactating).

For women, you don’t raise a brood of kids and then go back to being a good-time girl.  Not without amnesia and child protective services.  Let alone do it repeatedly.   Once you’re a mom, you’re never not-a-mom again.


Ever have one of those days?

Cream Puff is just giving up on life.

Really, it’s just a bright sunny day, so it got tropical in the greenhouse.It was the first time I put the screen door on.  The birds will be outside very soon.

Some of the birds were relaxing in the shade of the coops or behind hay bales. Others were making hay while the sun shines. The girl’s fort was mixed between shade and sun basking.Chickenland is a very relaxed place on a sunny afternoon.  Everyone is restful, chill, quiet, in a sort of dreamy zone.  Moving slow, and ready to sink down into a doze at any moment.

And then there’s Cream Puff, who either got so relaxed she just tipped over, or is tinkering with her rubber chicken impression.  I about died laughing.

Now, to keep the celery alive.

The celery is up.  It’s been showing little greenish threads for a couple of days, but today they stood up and unfolded their first “leaves” (cotyledons).

Naturally, they did not come up evenly distributed in the cells.  They never do.  Onions are showing too.  I love the way onions grow, folded back on themselves, and the fold emerging first.  It’s like, if a person was trying to dig themselves out of the ground they’d reach a hand out first (at least, that’s the impression I get from graveyard movie scenes).  Most plants do that, with their paired cotyledons.

Not onions.  They would stick an elbow out first, as far as possible, and then, like an afterthought, unbend the arm.


Box chicken is going strong and seeming to adapt happily to pet chicken status.  She eats more every day but is not restless.  She sticks her neck out long and cocks her head to watch us through her screen with one eye, and we do the same (but with two eyes) and baby talk inane crap to her.  Are you eating?  That’s so good!  Are you a hungry chicken?  It’s embarrassing.  And very funny when HW does it in falsetto.    Oh, you’re drinking?  Look at you drinking! You’re just a little chicken!  She’s going to have a lot to tell her friends when she goes back out to the flock.  Updates on the supposed intelligence of the unwinged ones.

Hen fort!

I’ve got all the Silkie hens in the Girls Fort these days.  There are too many big hens around, and the meek, peripheral vision-challenged Silkie bantams get nervous and out-competed.  So I experimented and put my only three fully adult Silkie hens in with the juveniles- the Sisters and on down.  I didn’t know if they would scrap or just get along.Turns out all of them just want to hang on a hay bale.   Having all the fluffy ladies behind a fence is driving  the roosters out of their minds, though.  The 3x-as-large-as-the-hens roosters can handle themselves perfectly well and mix it up with the full size birds.  Some Silkie roos outrank the big boys, and aren’t beneath mating the layers.  But their preferred girlfriends are locked up, and the Colonel patrols the fence all day.The Colonel.  Roos look funny when they’re drinking. Yang having a little post-breakfast head-under-wing nap (before she got taken inside to be a temporary pet).

Another boxed chicken

Yang is quartered in the house again.  I brought her in yesterday when I saw her hunched up and not eating breakfast.  I don’t know why, but she’s underweight and seems listless, compared to her sibling Yin, so she’s in rehabilitative care.

She’s into it.  She likes cuddling,and seems to eat pretty well, if timidly, on her own.

I gave her a roomier box today, with a decent view of the room.  First she went to the very back and made herself a nest, but then she edged up to within extended-neck’s reach of water and snacks and settled in there.   She goes back to the back if I make loud noises.

I can’t figure out if she’s exceptionally meek, or if she’s ill, because a chicken usually has much more energy than this.  Ie., they’re usually ready to tear a box apart, upset their water dish, and let you know, very loudly, that they do not thrive in captivity.  But for now, she’s been admitted to the box and the all-you-can-eat buffet for observation.

Seedy Saturday bounty

The 12th annual, and my 2nd, local Seedy Saturday was this weekend.  It’s kind of the only time I feel a crazed shopping rush often aka “retail therapy”.  SEEDS!  Seedsseedsseedsseeeeds!  I get a little wild.

All the pretty packages pulsing with the energy of potential, and all the pretty names of cool new (or old) varieties.  Even though I know how far one seed pack can go, and I come armed with a short list of the varieties I actually need, I can’t resist impulse and just-to-make-sure purchases.

And then there’s the trade table.  No risk at all to try some free new seeds.

We stayed for all the talks, and I learned something from each one. Stay tuned for forays into vermiculture and mealworm cultivation.

The last talk on seed saving by Chris Sanford gave me an aha moment about crossing.  Embarrassingly simple, and something I already knew from general biology, but somehow never got when it came to seeds, because the word “species” is rarely heard when you’re talking about vegetables.  Of course, the same species of anything, plant or animal, can interbreed.  That’s a definition of species.  And the categories of fruit or vegetables we may talk about, like “squash”, or “melons”, or “beans”,  those names aren’t of species, so squash of the same species can cross, but there are multiple species OF squash.  I know, I figured this out awfully late.


Knock knock.  Housekeeping!I came to clean the coop a little late in the afternoon.  There were a number of hens retiring early.  They reluctantly cleared out for me to pull out the thick mat of old hay and start a fresh layer.

Then, as usual, I got some assistance and supervision.  You put this here for me to stand in, right?

I’ll just have a look at your work here before you go.  The hens all grouped up on the roof of the chickeries.Meanwhile the guineas are inspecting the bath house.  They love a good dirt bath. And the new girls don’t mind a dip either.  Cheeks coming through.

Sick chicken

There’s a sick chicken (or maybe not sick, just elderly).

A couple of days ago:Comb gone limp and discoloured, and that characteristic no-neck stillness, like a semi-sleep.Or a whole sleep.

This is an old chicken.  There are still older chickens around, because I still have a few with chopped beaks (- what an awful thing), but she’s an elderly lady, as far as hens go.

Today: Comb almost completely flopped and pale, her wings are slumping down instead of held up on her back, and she’s hunched up into herself, dozing in the coop.

Sometimes hens come out of a state like this, perk up and return to business as usual, but most likely she’s approaching her departure.

This is how the hens go around here, except a couple unlucky ones that seem to get got by predators every year.  They enjoy a long retirement, and then they withdraw, drift into this less and less conscious pre-death state, and take themselves to the dark coop for the final sleep. Watching them go, it seems like the transition from life to death is long and smooth, not at all a single moment.

I find them stiff in the coop in the morning, sometimes stretched out, sometimes with their head tucked under their wing.

I think this is the best possible chicken way to go.  It seems natural and restful, but it’s hard to be sure.  They don’t look to me like they’re in pain, but I wish I knew.

*She completed her transition overnight


Cheeks is eating hay.   Consuming it, like a cow.    I got some new hay bales and she’s up on one, picking it apart and eating the hay.  Like spaghetti. You got a problem with me eating hay?!  I didn’t think so.

Cheeks has turned out to be a bit bossy, and quite a loner.  She doesn’t have a little hen clique; not that I’m sure how important that is to chicken mental health. I was hoping that she would make friends with Puffcheeks, one of her kind and a distant relation.  But not so far.  Puffcheeks has been sticking to the Barred Rocks she knows.

It appears that Phillippe Petit came out on top, as he is still playing guardian to the new girls.  Particularly pompously, I might add.  He’s very important now.  It’s good to see him food clucking and surveying his domain, though.  I like him and want him to turn out well.

Happy about living naturally