It was supposed to be a nice day, so Mom and the Oreos (Thanks for naming them, Mom) got to move outside! I transplanted the chickery from the arid hard packed environment of the greenhouse, where they spent a couple days, to the outdoors it was designed for.
Mom was so excited about grass – I can believe it- she was broody for so long she´d probably forgotten about grass – that when I lowered her into place she didn´t take a single step, just started gobbling grass where I set her.
Then the roosters came. The two remaining “exile” roosters, that stay apart from the main flock, and continue to sleep in the small coop, alone (I´m waiting for an opportunity to rehome them), lost no time discovering the new mama.
They made fools of themselves staring longingly through the mesh and giving some dancing performances.
I don´t get it myself, but she´s always been very popular.
They were resoundingly ignored by the object of their attention, but hovered around devotedly all day.
Will it rain or won´t it? Foggy, misty day – the chickery gets a rain cape.
When evening fell and mama settled down for the night, she and the Oreos got airlifted into a bucket to go in the warmer greenhouse for the night.
She was not impressed. I´ve never used a bucket before. The bucket is not very roomy, but it was handy (I got her a box tonight).
I was working in the greenhouse and a hen started making a big commotion BaBWOCK! BaBWOCK!! (etc-)
I looked out just in time to see a red hen (chicken) on the perch of the high rise guinea house, just before she took off. She was most likely shrieking about her imminent long flight, like she was on the high dive board.
I turned back to work, and then it occurred to me – What was she doing up there? Could she be laying eggs in the guinea house?!
I got a step ladder, climbed up to see, and sure enough, she WAS laying in the guinea house. For a few days. Well THAT helps explain the loss in egg production I was troubled by.
But hark. She´s not the only one laying in there! There are lovely pale brown pointy guinea eggs in there too! What a sweet little nest.
Cool. Guinea eggs! She´s not laying in the woods after all.
Nice to know at least the guinea hen knows how to go inside her coop, even if she does sleep outside no matter the weather.
They´re installed in the Silkie coop, which although it´s made for much smaller tenants, is very roomy right now, since the Silkies made a mass migration into the other coop with the big girls.
They´re so relaxed, laid back. They came strolling out, carefully but unconcerned.
They seemed quite pleased with the grass.
They´re huge! Big, cushy birds, like if a couch was a chicken. We carried them over from the driveway in the evening, one under each arm. HW´s nodded off on the walk. We put them in the coop with the two remaining Silkie roosters, who must have been pleased.
In the greenhouse, the chicks are rocking the chickery with their stepmom.
They´re just too cute, with little white bibs and butts.
Trying to crawl under for a warming.
I offended her, obviously. That´s the angry mom face. And stance.
One egg didn´t hatch. Two out of three ain´t bad.
Mom is looking much better. Her confinement allowed her to re grow her back and head feathers, so she´s less funny looking.
HW hasn´t stopped laughing at how big they are, compared to “Mom”. They can stand up while wrapped in a wing, and pop up to eye level with her. They´re not going to fit under her for very long.
Gosh, it´s been too long – I´ve been so busy! It´s garden and greenhouse time – very busy. Everyone is well, the piglets are no longer -lets, just pigs, the bees are busy, the hens are entertaining and entertained. I have lots to share…but for now, a glimpse:
The bunnies are grazing in the field alongside the hens and robins. They are almost all brown- some have tufts of white fur that haven´t fallen out yet, making them distinguishable. There´s always a rabbit around with a frond of greenery hanging out of its mouth. Low-speed chases happen – I suspect they are mating chases.
Sometimes I accidentally count the bunnies in with the guinea fowl.
The guineas stick closer to home than I initially expected.
And traveling as a pack, which I love. They´re all friends.
They can really get into a good dust bath too.
The dust bath is the most popular activity of the season, now that there are warm sunny days to laze around in and wile away the hours sticking a leg out awkwardly…
This is the guinea spot in the woods, right by our path. I suspect she´s laying her eggs here. Can you see all three?
This is the hen who thinks she´s a Silkie, always hangin´ with the fluffballs.
The Silkie tribe is becoming adventuresome (safety in numbers?), and every day venture a little farther into the woods to skritch in the leaves, or come a few feet farther down the path to the house.
Led by their intrepid leader, the Colonel:
The bees are full team ahead hauling in pollen. (I meant “steam”, but that makes more sense)
Returning a soggy bee to the hive, incoming bees use my hand for a landing strip.
There can no longer be more procrastinating; the guinea house has to be moved out of the greenhouse, so I have to finish it. It needs a roof.
The guineas have been faithfully roosting on top of it since I built it, and I gave up completely on plan A of training the birds to go in at night. For them, there is no in, only the highest possible perching point.
Well, that´s over now. I put a roof on it. I made an extra door perch, so they hopefully they will learn to creep into the house from the perch.
I had some help from carpenter chicken:
I´m totally helping. Can I poop on this for you?
Can´t put things down for a second.
Then, dusk fell, and the guineas came home to find that their house had been reno´d while they were gone. Extreme Makeover: Guinea Coop.
They went straight to the top; sat on the roof.
I hope they decide a roof is a pretty great idea once they are outside, and it rains.
HW found one of the half dozen birdhouses I put up last spring on the ground. Its mounting stick had broken off.
Surprise! It had been occupied! The hole was customized too. I was pleasantly surprised and gratified – I saw NO sign of any of the birdhouses I put up being used, ever, but clearly, I was wrong. Cool!
We have lots of snags and I know of dozens of holes in trees, many known to have hosted bird families, around here, so I thought my birdhouses weren’t terribly necessary, with all the options at hand (or wing).
Now I´m going to have to make the round of birdhouses and check them all, see if they need cleaning. I kind of mounted them in trees at random.
Of course, I see some fibers in there that are familiar. There´s some polyester stuffing (cozy!) out of one of the dog´s blankets – a duvet that he opened up, and some of my string line that a mouse chewed.
The nest and the inside are pretty worse for wear, wet and gunky. Perhaps the house was lying on the ground for some time. The wood is soggy, but still smells like cedar, and I think will dry out fine for a respectable re-use.
There was a vacated chrysalis of unusual size attached to the roof of the house (inside). What the heck came out of that?
I´ve put the first broody hen of the year to box. She´s been determined to brood for a couple weeks, daily protesting the removal of her clutch. I´ve relented, and put her on three pretty blue eggs (Ameracaunas). I hope she can do it; she´ll be the first of my Silkies to sit on a clutch of alien eggs. If it works, it will be an ugly duckling situation. My last attempt at egg swapping was rejected – they rolled the big eggs out and down the ramp.
She´s not a very good-looking hen; in fact, she´s an unusually ugly little lady, but she´s feisty and single-minded, keeps her eggs tidy (not allowing them to spill out), and has been steadfastly resisting my attempts to break her up, so she might turn out be a great mother.
I forgot to keep an eye on the pigs´water, and they got thirsty.
So, they pushed their water dish across their lot to the fence where I throw their food. Hey! We need a refill! Not only that, but they put one of their dog bowls into the water dish. Fill this up while you’re at it, would you?
So intelligent! I don´t have to worry about them needing anything. They´ll let me know. They are plenty capable of communicating. I can always tell when they’re due for a meal by the sound, and the sensation of eyes watching me.
They dug a hole (really it was A.P. that dug the hole). An ambitious endeavour, and it successfully formed a wallow, all on her own. She dug down to reach water, and then widened it out. The pink pigs never took initiative like that. They were content to flip over their water bowl, but it would promptly absorb and disappear.
There´s been a full scale cooporate takeover. The Colonel has moved in, and brought his ladies with him.
There´s been a couple Silkie hens that decisively moved in with the big girls weeks ago, but HW noticed the Colonel exiting the layer coop in the morning, and told me he suspected a relocation.
I think, because of the rain the last few days, that the Silkies couldn´t be bothered to walk the 40 feet back to their own coop, and just went up the proximate ramp.
The flocks hang out surprisingly intimately all day, piled up in the same dirt bowls, eating together, laying eggs in each other´s coops, and when it rains, huddled shoulder to shoulder under the nearest coop with their shoulders hunched up (the guineas too). I LOVE this! I´m so happy they get along.
I´m over the moon that since the integration of the flocks this winter and their coexistence in the greenhouse, that I can retire the tiresome, rickety Silkie un-“tractor”, and all the birds are fully free again. What they do with their freedom is sometimes unexpected, and usually entertaining.
Sometimes a name alights on a being like a hawk landing on a fencepost. Here to stay. The rooster formerly known as Snowball (we do our best, until their real name arrives), is now irrevocably, unquestionably, the Colonel.
The Colonel is the Big Boss of All the Chickens around here, ruthlessly laying down the law and keeping Jacques in line (that´s the big Copper Maran rooster at the back of the coop), despite Jacques being about 5 times his size. This was very unexpected.
Any human visitors think it´s absolutely hilarious when I point out the big boss. They point; that guy? The pint sized pompom? That big rooster is scared of HIM? No way! Then they are usually treated to an exhibition – the Colonel marching authoritatively towards the giant, showy rooster who dared to come too close, and Jacques the Giant hastily looking for somewhere else to be.
Jacques gets no respect. The Colonel keeps him looking over his shoulder. HW calls him a punk. He´s still growing into his leadership role, I think. He´s pretty good with his hens, unselfish and a food announcer; they like him, but he can´t count, and doesn´t organize them very well; they scatter, and scattering is not good for chicken longevity. Also, he attacks me daily. I whack him with sticks and throw water on him; he has a short memory. The Colonel doesn´t hesitate to rescue me, which is nice, but feels like the wrong order of things.
The Colonel keeps track of eleven Silkie hens, and they typically flow in a big group without stragglers (It´s awesome to observe chickens in as free a state as possible- they have a culture, and it evolves; they are in charge, and I serve them, with shelter, food, and evening security lockup). The Colonel has one young protege, a blond rooster that rolls with the big flock, but there are four more roosters that are exiles and just huddle at a distance. These poor roosters are due for rehoming – they´re on Kijiji. They´re quite gorgeous, and they´ll make great rooster-leaders if they get a chance.
It seems here in Nova Scotia we’re getting a piece of the rainstorm that has been creeping up the Eastern coast and is currently flooding Ontario and Quebec, and New Brunswick.
After a mostly just drizzly day, the rain is hammering down now, and the wind is gusting. The ground is too saturated to absorb any more water, and all my water collection vessels are full to the brim.
The hens spent the day ducking into the greenhouse when it squalled (I´m so loth to evict them, although it´s about time to plant the second half); the pigs spent much of the day in bed, staying dry.
What really matters to me when the house is hammered by wind and rain is knowing that all my animals are as dry and cozy as we are in the little house. The hens are hunkered in tight, tested coops; the pigs are on a pallet piled with hay, above the rising puddles in their house; the bees were flying today, their hive is lashed down and they have a jar of syrup; and the guineas are high and dry (literally) on their tall coop, still in the greenhouse.
The oinkers are growing! They still have long legs, and act like dogs in ways. They stretch first thing out of bed, they jump around when they’re excited, and they love to run.
Seeing how much they love to run makes me sad about all the pigs that are confined in quarters barely large enough for them to turn around, where their only function is to eat and grow fat. Clearly lethargy is not their natural state.
They love a good sprint. They celebrate the coming of food by an exuberant oinking lap around their enclosure, usually with a figure eight through and around their house. They’re very athletic pigs.
HW loves the pigs (he doesn’t seem to have any conflict with adoring them and having to kill them later). He’s disappointed when he comes home from work and I’ve already fed them (so I tend to wait). Either way, he visits them while he’s still in his work clothes, and then he comes in saying something like “Those oinkers are funny! I was sitting in their house with them and…”
You were what?
He’s been actively trying to tame them. We can do anything to them while they’re eating; Spots tolerates HW petting her at other times, but A.P. won’t stand for it. He also snorts at them, although I’ve told him he’s probably saying something insulting in their language. They love it though, they immediately get louder and oink back when HW comes down the trail, snorting. He’s kind of good at it.
Yesterday his story was: “I was out there chasing those oinkers around… ” (You were what?!) “They love it! They know that it´s play, because as soon as I stop, they run up to me. But they LOVE to run. Then when I left I looked back and one pig was flopped out on the ground, legs out – no, not in their house, just in the mud – then she got up, walked in a circle, and flopped down again – she was all tuckered out!”
So HW plays games with the pigs too. I haven’t even witnessed him sitting in their house or playing chase, let alone when I had a camera. But I can hope.
The introduction of two bowls (recycling the dog bowls):
It worked perfectly, exactly like I expected.
Oh, you’ve got something good over there? I wants it.
One pig gets jealous and pushes the other off her bowl.
Displaced pig coolly walks around to the vacant bowl.
Both are eating constantly, but quite sure the other bowl is better.
My garden starts are taking over our tiny house. A few have gone out, but more are still inside, and have just been potted up. This is the maximum volume of starts in the house – peak seedlings. The bulk of them are due now to go out to the greenhouse, and then the starts will steadily be on their way out the door.
Some of the fastest-growing tomato varieties have grown legs in just a couple days (you know who you are, Ropreco). It seems I just can´t avoid getting leggy tomatoes, unless I adjust seeding dates by variety – not sure I´m that dedicated.
I can now announce the newspaper pots a success. They hold up just fine. I´m totally going to do this every year. However, it´s the slightly stiffer (or more impregnated with coloured printing ink) advertising paper that comes in the middle of the paper that works best- I made a couple with normal newspaper and they sort of melted.