Movin’ on up, up, up

The guineas are at this age where they just get into trouble all day.

They’re falling in the drink, getting stuck in or under stuff, and practicing perching anywhere they can.  I get called outside frequently by the panicked shrieks of the mortally assailed, and I find chicks…

How did it get in there?  Last year I planted a highbush blueberry and set a cage over it so the chickens didn´t uproot it through their vigourous appreciation of mulch.

I routinely found wailing chicks “trapped” in the chickery until I set it up on its side.  Now it´s a perch.They’ve got that guinea vase shape and they´re starting to turn speckled from striped, but they’re still brown.

Then I was brought outside at dusk by some particularly sustained alarm calling.

To find this:

The chicks were getting up on the greenhouse.  And they were really nervous about it, making  a lot of consternation noises.It started with the grownups.  They started inching up onto the greenhouse from the sky coop while mama was sitting with her brood on the perches.

A couple of days ago, they started roosting on the peak.

Not to be outdone, the chicks just decided that’s the place to sleep now.

First they flap up to the arch from the coop Then they scoot up until they gain the peak

A few of them are content to stay on the coop, which I think is smart, but I’m sure they’ll be leveled up in no time.

I have a theory that this started with the weather vane.  If that bird can get up there, then so can we.

Their additions are not very attractive.  They’re adding a lot of nitrogen now to the water I’m catching off the greenhouse.

No, they don’t puncture the plastic.  It’s tight at night in the cold.  It makes loud rumbling as they all scurry back and forth across it.

What’s funny, is that there’s not much space at the top.  It´s kind of a one way street.  Yet they insist on going back and forth, and when they pass each other….

If anyone gets more than a few inches from the center, they start to slip, then run in place, flapping, and either they regain the summit or abort, and push off to fly to the ground and then begin the quest again.

Eventually they line up like beads for the night.  It looks like an owl buffet to me, but I don’t have any ideas how to stop them.

Chicks in the greenhouse

There´s a tribe of chicks in the greenhouse.  One mom has 5 Chanticleer chicks, and the other has seven Silkies.

The Chanticleers

They never shut up!  PeeppeeppeepPEEPpeeppeeppeepPEEPpeep. Wow.  I don´t know how the Moms handle it, unless lots of it is inter-chick chatting that they can tune out.

Otherwise, it´s Mom, Mom, Mom!  MOM, Hey Mom, Look at this Mom, Hey Mom can I eat this?  What about this?  What´s this Mom? Look what I found Mom, Look at me Mom, I flapped!  See how fast I can run? Watch this, Mom!  

All. Day. Long.

The Silkies

The Silkies are a week older than the Chantis, so they´re all the same size (so far).  The Silkies are already entering their scruffball transition from fluff to feathers.  There’s three white and four brown.

Most of these chicks I’ve never even touched.  They´re going to be the wildest bunch yet. They were born in a box with an open door, and Mom’s been totally in charge from day 1.  I don´t even see them every day.

But boy do I hear them.

They’re all so happy and safe in there, savaging the low-hanging tomatoes, rearranging my mulch, tasting stuff.  It’s a rooster-free zone.  One Silkie rooster is wont to stand looking in the screen door, fantasizing.

The pigs are rooting.  I give them a nice new grassy area that looks like a green pig paradise for about an hour.  They like to customize their environment, which means turning over every inch of sod. Very diligent workers.  And fast.

Holy eyebrows, Batpig!

Guinea sleepover II

The next night was rainy and a bit bleak.  In the morning when I released the sleepover chick, I hadn´t marked it, although we´d talked about banding it, to know which one was “our friend”.

HW did some out loud wondering whether we´d have another visitation.  Jokes about discovering the good life in the house aside,  maybe this little bird had an injury.  A sprain?  Perhaps it was having a hard time and the falling in the tank was a symptom, not cause.

In the evening, he closed the coops again and returned without remark.  He climbed to the loft, where I was, then halted meaningfully at the top of the ladder until I looked up.

No way!  There he was, holding a guinea chick to his chest, chick looking at me with neck stuck out, orange legs dangling.

The bird’s total comfort with the proceedings was the first clue this was the same bird.  And now I will be wrapped in a towel and snuggled.  Yes, please!

Wow!  Night two!  This time it had not gone for a swim and was only wet from the day´s rain, but it had been struggling to get up on the coop, and allowed HW to catch it (I don´t think it tried to get away very hard).

Same procedure:  Wrapped in towel, hugged, pet on the head (same bumps on the head confirmed definitely same bird), encouraged to go to sleep.  The chick was a little bit less tired tonight, keeping eyes open longer, but even more relaxed.  Totally silent.  Lounging.Like the previous night, I fell asleep with it and it woke me later by hopping up, then resisting my hey go back to sleep hand over top of it, and I put it back in the night box.

Now HW´s jokes about having a house guinea seemed a bit more real.  Hmmm.

 

Guinea sleepover!

HW called me to the door with urgency, just while he was doing the coop closing round.

He was holding an exhausted, soaking wet guinea chick!

I´d been worried about that stock tank, sitting practically under the guinea coop, especially when the chicks were first emerging.  Then when they were older they managed to start roosting on the coop together without my supervision, or incident, and it´s been weeks since they were hopping up on the coop, using the rim of the stock tank as a jump off point.  I figured we were well past the risk of someone falling in.

But no. He´d found this baby swimming, exhausted and nearly dead.

I snatched it up in a towel, wrapping it up with just a beak sticking out, and held it to my belly.  It was shivering hard.  I rocked with it in the rocking chair for awhile before remembering it´s mammals that rock, not birds, and then I took it upstairs, as we were headed there, to bed.

It took about an hour to stop shivering, and a couple of re-wraps with a dry part of the towel. 

After it was out of the woods, then it was all fun. It would poke its head out of the towel and then suck it back in, like a turtle.

It was a dream come true, being able to hold and snuggle a little chick!!

I put the swaddled bird in HW´s lap ´”for a minute” to go out and make a last check that there was no one else in trouble outside.  The guineas were really shrieking up a storm.  HW: “Where’s Roberta!”

When I got back, he wouldn’t give it back!  He called me a chick hog and told me to get my own chick.  “Me and Roberta are hanging out.”  Whenever he leaned or reached for something suddenly, the chick would protest with a little trill.  He kept it in his lap until he needed to get up for something, and I got it back! 

Eventually it started to pant, and I loosened the towel, more and more.  It was totally unwrapped at the end, but very, very relaxed.  It was clearly perfectly happy to be where it was.  No designs on escape.  It was very tired, dozing off, sticking its neck out, and then, Awwww!  resting its head on my arm and going to sleep!   Adorable!  I pet its bumpy little head and skinny neck, hugged it.  It was into it. Looking at us.  Making little sounds if someone moved too quick.

HW said “you´ve got a little dinosaur over there” and said it´s not going to want to go outside again, now that it´s experienced the good life.  “You´re going to have a little house guinea!”

I was very tired myself, and I fell asleep with my arm around it.  HW thought I would roll on it and I should put it in the box, but I didn´t.  How often am I going to get to cuddle a little wild chick?  I´m going to get every minute I can.

Sometime in the night, it got restless, and woke me by standing up, hopping on my arm.  So I put it in the box then and it was silent until morning.

I carried it back out, head whizzing around trying to figure out where it was, then getting excited as we neared the group, and voila – back in the flock!

 

Blondies made it to the house

They’ve been getting closer every day, with their little peep peeping.  They´re so talkative you can always hear them coming.

They’re very funny, acting like they’re pretty sure they’re not allowed to be here, so far from the coop, and trippign over themselves dashing  into the woods when seenRun away!!!

But the big chickens are here (they hang around the house half the day, peering in the screen door and hoping for handouts).  So the Blondies have made their way over.

The house-moochers of the future.

They are also starting to get their cheeks, which is adorable:)

The three orphaned blond Ameracuanas are nearly grown up, now.  They look like proper chickens, with very erect half-fan tails, but they´re small!  Slim, long legged, and gangly.  the right chicken shape, but not filled in.  And still peeping like babies (constantly).

Two have slate legs, but one has yellow legs.

Hello, cheeks
It´s possible we got two hens and a cock (this is the cock).

 

 

Fabulous discovery

I was cutting down glossy leaf buckthorn (GLB is a terrible, horrible invasive species resembling an alder crossed with a T-rex, but that´s another story), slash moving the pigs today.  I have a combination campaign in progress against the GLB.

I have to clear buckthorn just to make a path to put the electric pig fence through “the woods”, so the pigs have ample shade.  The old growth buckthorn provides shade, and the piglets root up all the GLB sprouts.  Then when we move the pigs along, we can cut down the big stuff, and seed the lumpy, pig tilled ground.

It´s slow, but it´s better than nothing, and the pigs´needs force me to at least do a little bit, regularly.  There´s quite a difference already in the field the pigs have worked all year.

So I was toppling and wrestling buckthorn, and after the pigpen, I drifted a little away from the pigs with my snipping, and ran right into a high-bush blueberry laden with big blue berries.  WOW! 

Right next to it, another, 7´tall, entwined in the branches of an alder.  Surprise, surprise, Mom and the Oreos were lounging beneath said alder. 

Awesome!  I looked around for others in the vicinity, but no luck.  This must be twenty years old.  It´s nice to find survivors from the ambitious planting efforts of the previous owners; so much did not survive the nearly 15 years of vacancy between their occupancy here and ours.  I didn´t think there was anything left to find here!

The pigs have been especially talented at unearthing the glass bottles that they used to mark the fruit and nut trees they planted.  Most of the lids have rusted through so the paper has been wet, but a few survive intact, artifacts of hopeful ambition, although the trees they once marked haven´t.  Survivors to date: walnut trees (magnificently), one hazelnut, two blueberries!, mint, comfrey, oregano, garlic (!), a lilac, some apple grafts.

I got this big bowl of berries off of it, and there´s more to ripen.  Now I have to make jam.

Picky picky piglets

No pigs are alike.  These pigs have distinguished themselves by being extraordinary rooters -powerful and efficient, although they’re still just little (uhoh when they grow)- and being picky eaters.

They’ll eat apples.  They’ll eat peaches.  But a vegetable?

Eggplant.  No way.

Green pepper.  Mmm, nope.

Mustard greens.  Nope.

Cucumber.  They gummed it.  I broke it in half, the better to learn what was inside.  They tasted the inside, made expressive Ew faces, and nosed them out of the bowl.  Come on!  A cucumber?!   I get it, with the eggplant, ok, I don’t like them unless they’re grilled either, but a juicy green pepper?  A delicious cucumber?  My hens can’t eat all the cukes I have.

These pigs are here in prime harvest time to be plied with as much as they can eat in windfall apples and surplus veggies.  All vegetables pigs past have quite enjoyed, mind you. And these two turn out to be picky eaters?

I look at them.  You’re pigs.  How can you be picky?  That’s against your definition.  They look down their snouts.  We’ll have the peaches, s’il vous plait.

Pigs spit out the pits just like we do

I’m baking eggplant in the sun oven.  See if they’ll eat them cooked, even if I have to drizzle with olive oil.  If they approve, I’m cooking two every sunny day until the eggplant glut is over.

Standing in the food bowl asserts dominance and ownership of the food bowl. No one is fooled.

Ok. I guess it’s time to move the pig house. I did four days ago, but ok…

Bee skyscraper

The old bees (on their third summer) are not dividing.  I added a fifth super in July.  It’s not like five full size supers is unheard of, but it’s tall!  I thought they were going to split this year, and I’ve had inviting accommodations all set up, should they feel like swarming.  They didn’t.

Now they likely aren’t going to, since it’s too late to set up housekeeping and build up honey stores before the winter.  So that’s a huge hive.  I guess that means they’re happy. They may winter in three supers this year.  Next year, they’ll surely split.

It’s tall!  I can’t see into the lounge to check on their syrup, I can’t lift the lid, and I can’t see in if I do, without a ladder.  And working off a ladder is terribly hard.  I had my first taste of it installing the fifth super, and wow, I kind of wish I’d opted for mixing small and full supers.  Moving heavy weight very slowly and smoothly to not crush bees, in a bee suit, is quite a workout – I was dripping, and shaking.

 

Newbees

Three weeks ago I got a second hive of bees.  Yes, late in the year, but they were from my bee guru, and he was confident I could take them through the winter by putting the syrup to them hard. 

I brought them home in the night, seatbelted in on the front seat.  They were very quiet.  I set them in place on the pre-established base of the hive, with the lid right on top of the nuc box.

First thing in the morning, there was a bee walking about, investigating.  Later in the day, there were many bees flying around, mostly backwards, getting their bearings (they leave the hive backwards and hover around a bit, getting a visual impression of the hive’s location, before they leave to work), and some already hard at it, carting in pollen.

I transferred them to the super, but because these nuc boxes have slots in the bottom to prevent frames from clanking around, I couldn’t knock the loose bees out into the hive.  I had to leave it leaned up against.

The bees inside were all confused, and slowly moved up the box as a group.  Where’d everybody go?  Gravity just changed direction too.

Since these bees were unexpected and I didn’t have time to make a batch of bee syrup the first day, I opened a jar of wax and honey from last year and set it in the lounge.  Just to get them through that night.

The few jars of wax I have are quite solid, with a bit of honey precipitated out on the bottom.  I pushed my finger down the side of the wax chunk so they could get at some of the honey, but it wasn’t soft enough to ooze out.

Next day when I went in to give them syrup- WHOA!  They cleaned out that jar of wax.  In 24 hrs.

In fact, they made quite a mess.  Wax flakes everywhere.  I took the dry jar out and gave them syrup.

Inside the bee lounge (eke)

Inside the first beehive, the art studio is still going strong.

They continue to sculpt the chunks of burr comb and wax that I drop in there to their liking, but don’t do anything with it. Just art.

Morning chicks

I was greeted in the morning by news of chicks!  HW didn’t know that they were freshly hatched because they were so big, but they hatched overnight.

I knew they were coming, because for the last few days, mama passed up her daily meal and stayed put on her eggs.  (This mama was the lady who lunched).

These are baby Chanticleers, future layers.  Five hatched of six eggs, wonderful!  They are born bigger than the Silkie chicks that are a week old. 

I wasn’t sure what to do with these.  Already dynamic, a few hours old, I wanted to let them out of the chickery right away but worried that the hens would fight.

I did let them out, lifting the chickery up and over the sunflower that grew up inside of it, and all the chicks scuttled out into squash land.  I’ll barely see them anymore.

Later in the day, it seemed that the two tribes had not met; the Silkies on the tomato side and the new babies on the squash side.  It’s thick in there.  They have plenty to do without encountering each other.

Out into the jungle

I was literally writing about the guinea chicks getting trapped in the greenhouse, at dusk, and I heard some persistent cheeping outside.  I went to check, with a flashlight, and sure enough, there was a keet darting around on the ground.

Why?

I swung up the light and this greeted me. 

She brought them home.  This was the night.  Ok kids.  This is where the grownup guineas sleep.  You aren’t keets any more!

I just about died laughing, while I ran back to get a camera.  Then I tried to round up the loose keets on the ground, hoping to, I don’t know, lift them up into the house?  Obviously there just wasn’t room for all of them.

I couldn’t find the keets, though, they had hidden themselves so well, so I wasn’t terribly worried about them overnight. (They were fine).

I added more perches, so the house is bristling now, and tonight, they looked much more comfortable.  I even saw the last one fly up from the stock tank, climb over some others to burrow down next to mom:)

 

Summer’s turn

So it begins, with the guineas.

What have we here?  A pile of chicks trying to perch like grownups on the coop, next to mom.

But look closer.  Who’s that IN the greenhouse?  I don’t know how the F they got in there, maybe the gap above the screendoor?, but there were three little guineas on the door header on the wrong side.  Frantic!

I get involved, scare them off the door, thinking they’ll come out the open door after they’re on the ground.  Nyoooo!  Mom is on the ground now too, so they run towards her and out of my sight behind the cucumbers.

Mom can see them running back and forth through the plastic and starts pecking at them.  Naughty!  Get out of there!  Chicks:  We can’t, we can’t! 

The plastic is like the skin of a drum,  and her pecking it is frightening the daylights out of the chicks.  Boom!  Boom!  It’s frightening me too.

HW swings around outside to get Mom to cease and desist, I undo the wiggle wire on that corner, and after rattling the cucumber vines, the chicks come popping out the hole and it’s all over but the storytelling.

The wild Oreos and their fluffy stepmom no longer slip under the fence into Pigland but are content in the partially desertified former Pigland.  They tower over mom now.  One is coming into slate shingle colouring, and the other has developed coppery neck feathers.

The light is shortening, and it’s that glorious time of year when when the chickens feel like going to bed lines up with when I want to go to bed.  Midsummer is awful.  The chickens outlast me every day.  I’ll be so tired I’m struggling to stay awake long enough to close them up, because they’re out there hopping around!  Not a care in the world!  SO not ready for bed.  Today, I’m like, What?  Are you guys seriously all in bed at 8:20!?  I could weep with joy.

Inside the greenhouse Brown Bonnet is proudly bringing up 7 chicks.

These chicks have a different start because instead of chickery time, when they first emerged I lifted her box out of the fence because she was sharing, and trusted mama not to lose any chicks in the jungle.

Funny, the first three days, she barely went two feet from the box.  Now she’s using half of the tomato aisle as the chicks increase in ability.  Soon they will be anywhere, and I’ll think twice about slinging buckets of water.

At night they all go back in the box to sleep, which is adorable.  They are going to be so wild, never getting the daily airlift touching

Someone’s always got to peek out.

Or two someones.

Or three.

Worldwash

The world got a thorough washing yesterday, with spectacular lightning and thundering, and possibly 90mm of rain here.

I filled every vessel I had; the wheelbarrow filled in about 10 seconds it was coming so hard.  The paths were all rivers during the worst of it.

All the chickens were hiding under their tents, even the guinea chicks. 

In the greenhouse, new mama has a little entourage of chicks in the tomato forest.  One had a beakful of tomato, quite proud of itself.  I know they are going to taste test all the ripe tomatoes they can reach.  Oh well.

Later on, the sun came out.  The guinea chicks are growing by the day and getting tamer, slowly.  They learned to fly up onto the hen coop, and were practicing that, flying up, jumping off.

Bats back

So many exciting things today!

Mama Silkie I completed hatching out her eggs for a grand total of seven little Silkie chicks, three white and four brown.  They are at liberty in the greenhouse but haven’t gone more than a couple feet from the box.

A restorative friend visit and blueberry pick- 10# of fat blueberries that the piglets and chickens will be ecstatic to have a little taste of.

The promise of rain!  The smell is light relief in the air.

Then the guineas decided to level up.

We win. We’re up higher!

While I was taking pictures of these clowns, a BAT! came flapping around.  100% bat!  It was flying right over my head to hoover up the bugs that I was attracting and I saw the whole bat silhouette against the sky (much clearer than my camera saw it).  It seems like the bats might be on their way back from the brink!

Nuthatchling

I was yanking out St. John’s Wort along our woods path, and I saw a little flutter.  There was an itty bitty bird, hopping along in the duff.

Because it allowed me to, I reached out and picked it up.  I thought at first it was a chickadee, but the way it grabbed on my hand indicated a woodpecker.

Then I noticed the tip of its beak was all gummed up, and I picked and pulled at that.  I think it was sap, full of dirt. Very sticky.  As soon as I got most of it off, and it could open its beak, it squawked!

I carried it home for a photo shoot and to show HW.  It seemed pretty content.  Chicks tend to like being held, after initially being disgruntled.  Oh, I’m warm.  This isn’t so bad.

Then I took it back to where I’d found it.  I tried to put it on a tree, quite sure it was a creeper, but it fluttered back down to the ground.  I retired and watched.

It started cheeping.  Peep, peep peep.  Peep, peep peep.

Sure enough, a nuthatch appeared in the overstory.  Of course, nuthatch!  It flew off in the wrong direction, but I was quite sure it had been looking for the source of peeping first, so it was probably off for a grub to return with.

Later on, the baby was gone so I’m sure it was fine.  Possibly its beak was shut with the sap, though, so that it couldn’t make noise.  I like to think I helped it.

It’s a fallacy that parent birds reject chicks if you touch them.  The best thing to do for a fallen chick is to replace it in the nest or the branches of a tree and wait for the parents to return.

Apparently, we’re pig farmers now

We got piglets again.  They look just like the last ones.

Spots and A.P. are now pork and delivered to customers.  We went out on a limb a little bit getting these piglets before having customers arranged to buy the meat, but we had the chance to get Black Berkshires again, which went so well the last time, and we just like having pigs.

These little girls have 1/4 Tamworth in them, but you wouldn’t know.  Enormous ears, black with white patches, one bigger and bolder than the other. It’s Spots and A.P. all over again, except for the great escape on arrival.  We did better with that.

They were jammed in a dog crate together – too small for them but better than separating them.  They seemed pretty relaxed in the crate, but they had a fair drive to get here.  I think transport day must be the worst day of their lives.  Hot, cramped, apprehensive, and unfamiliar.

Instead of carrying them across our land to Pigland, HW wheeled the crate over in the wheelbarrow, and set it down inside the electric fence.

I opened the door, and they froze, deciding they were very shy. 

One pig is possibly twice the size of the other, although they are the same litter.  They have lovely eyes, like dog eyes.

They stuck just their noses out into the grass, sniffing around a bit without leaving the crate.  This may be their first contact with the outdoors.

We left them to come out on their own time, and I came back to check on them in half an hour.  They were in the exact same place.  Snouts outside resting in the grass, settled down and fast asleep.  We need a nap after that last experience.  No new experiences yet, thank you very much!By dusk they had come out and were hiding in their woods, but came out for a late snack.

Perching practice

There’s the guinea keets this morning, practicing perching on the feet of the guinea sky-coop.  They grow by the day. 

HW has raised the issue of what happens when all these guineas grow up.  Case in point, when they start hollering about something, it’s “How do you think 20 of those are going to sound?”, and “What happens when all those guineas decide to sleep on top of the coop?” and the most difficult:  “So, if you had two hens this year and they had 16 babies, then what happens next year when all those hens are grown up, and they have….how many babies are they gonna have?”