the chicken who sits

I have a chicken who forgot how to walk.  She waddles around, and sets her tail on the ground.  It’s very strange looking, and came on quite suddenly.

This chicken took sick a couple weeks ago.  Comb went blue and floppy, she stopped eating and hunkered down into the pre-death chicken trance. I was sure she was done for.But she came out of it, as quickly as she went in.  Comb red again, although still floppy. Appetite back, hanging out with the other hens, even dust bathing.    Just one side effect.  She walks really funny, like it’s raining all the time.

I’ve looked it up.  She’s an old hen, past laying, so she’s not an internal layer or egg-bound.  It’s been over a week, and although it looks so wrong, she seems otherwise fine, not struggling or suffering.   Just sitting around.

Back down to two

Only two guinea chicks running around today.  Life is brutal for latecomers.

They’re so funny!  Little bitty chicks, the size of ping pong balls, scuttling around on their orange legs right in the middle of the big flock, like they belong there.  They’re hard to even find in my pictures.

It’s a big rain day.  The rain is thundering down; I caught 300 gallons of water in an hour off two roofs.  Everything is puddled and the hens are mostly huddling under their new tents.

Wet chicken

New additions!

Already!  Two little guinea chicks showed up at feeding time in the middle of the guinea herd!

Only two?  She had about ten eggs in her nest even after the close call with the tractor, but I checked it out, and there were two empty shells, and four intact eggs.  Maybe something happened, she rolled out a few eggs or something stole a few.

Then HW came home, discovered the new additions, and said “did you see the three new chicks?”

Three!?  Sure enough, there was a latecomer.  Easy to tell which one.  Just a few hours made the original two old hands at life.  The late arrival was shaky and slow and having a hard time navigating uneven terrain and obstacles.

Mama isn’t as crazy as she used to be either.  She let me pick one up.

Everybody’s long necking today

I got six “new” hand-me-down layer hens last night.  They traveled quietly and stowed easily into the coop.

This morning, they came down the ramp looking around with their necks at maximum extension.  What? Is this where we live?  Where are we?  They walk around slowly, lifting their feet high and setting them down cautiously.

And the home girls are long necking at them. Who are THEY?  Where’d they come from?  Harumph.

Everyone is very suspicious, and the roosters are very busy taking charge.

Mouse in the house

I’ve had the sunflower heads in the house drying, and seeds spread out.

Enter the mouse.

One large advantage of the tiny house, free from the usual punctures in the envelope for plumbing and wiring, is that it’s almost mouseproof.  Mice can’t get in from underneath.

However, because the soffit isn’t done, mice can get into the walls by climbing the house and going in through the roof, and occasionally, a very enterprising or highly intelligent mouse does.  Not often.  Every month or two, long enough for us to forget where we put the mouse traps, a mouse with heightened problem solving skills appears who finds its way in.

Then there’s the sound. 

Crinkle….crinkle….scritch scritch! that makes our eyes pop open in the night – MOUSE!  Then HW rises to find and set traps, and that’s the end of the mouse of superior intellect.

But this mouse is surviving much longer.  Why would I want peanut butter, out of a jar, when I can eat plump organic sunflower seeds?  It’s a smart mouse, after all.  I’ve spread traps around and among my spread out seeds, hoping he’ll run across one by accident.  He isn’t.

This mouse is not necessarily eating the seeds either – how much can a mouse hold?  Instead, he’s relocating them.  I find little piles of seeds, so far: under my socks dropped on the floor, in the dishtowels, in the laundry basket, and in the kleenex box.  He’s keeping those seeds cozy.

I just cleaned up all the seeds, though, so the end is nigh for Mensa mouse.  As soon as he gives peanut butter a try.

Bee Bizarre

The bees are doing the strangest thing.  They are obsessed with the chicken food, groups of them buzzing and crawling over it all day.

The chickens are a little nervous about this, but they eat anyway.

It started as soon as I opened the last bag of chicken food, so the only thing I can guess is that this particular batch has a lot of pollen in it.  If there was some weed in the field or one of the grains in flower at harvest time, pollen might have come to be ground into the feed, and the honeybees are scavenging it right out of the chicken trough.

Every day, the bees are in every chicken dish, all day, working.  I’ve never seen such a thing before.

These are the phones I’ve had, I’ve had, These are the phones I’ve had.

When my phone slipped out of my hand and the screen shattered (exhibit H, lower right), becoming instantly useless, I scrambled to find an old phone that would work in the meantime.

I went to that box (the “someday, I’m going to be glad I saved that pink flip phone!” box), and found almost all the phones I’ve ever had.

The clutch of old phones got me thinking about electronic waste.

I resentfully entered into cell phone ownership in the late 2000s (pink flip phone), and, like cars, used my phones until they expired (which didn’t bode well for my current project), and with no hunger for cutting edge technology (as might be apparent).

So even with a very non-disposable attitude towards phones, I’ve gone through 11 phones.  Three are not pictured.  There was a silver LG flip phone (best phone ever!) that was impervious to all kinds of abuse, and I passed on to someone else for whom it continued to go and go.  Oh, the days of T9 texting.  The tenth was another LG, the chastity belt phone, that refused to unlock for any coercion and became a camera.  And one got lost in the woods.

I started charging phones.  Two of these don’t take a SIM card, so although they function, they were obsoletized, alas (someday…that pink phone will have its day, again).  Which would be the one that could get me through this pinch?  Maybe a blackberry?  Between the two of them, one complete blackberry is present, but it doesn’t talk to the network.  The iphone was hopeful.  Elegant phone, totally functional but for a broken internal antenna – garbage.  First LG touchscreen – total digital screen failure – kaput.

The Samsung on the end worked like a charm, yay!  The reason it got retired has not yet become apparent.  I’m about to buy phone #12.

I (self-identified resistor of phone consumption) am at an average of a phone every two years, which is about average (my attitude affects nothing).  All those pounds of waste!  Times billions of people, times all the years to come that we will continue to consume cell phones!

I’m also not doing anything useful by keeping my phone collection other than hoarding precious metals in an inaccessible form.  I need to get these recycled.

 

Little leafeaters

I wonder why my pepper plants have no leaves?

Maybe it has something to do with these little scamps.

Who, us? Surely not!

It’s also a mystery why they enjoy pepper leaves so much.  They must be sweet.  The hot pepper plants don’t get defoliated (the eggplant leaves are ragged too).  Doesn’t bother me.  They leave the peppers alone, and the plants will be out soon anyway.

There are 12 chicks in the GH, with two Silkie moms.  They have they’re hands (beaks?) full.

They’re at this point where the Silkie chicks (coming into fluffy tails), are the same size as the Chanticleer babies, who are eventually going to be huge. 

They all mostly get along.

Tomato abundance

It’s probably time to can tomatoes.

Some are rotting on the vine in the greenhouse.  Many are hollowed out by the resident chicks, and still, the tomatoes are cascading down the vines.

My favorite way to can cherry and grape tomatoes is to jam them all in a jar whole, and pack them with water with a bit of vinegar and salt (proper canning procedures, blah blah).  They come out cool as refreshing as when they were picked, softened, with a hint of tang.  I can eat a pint of them straight. 

Walnuts

The walnuts are dripping off the big tree, indicating they’re ripe!  Hopefully none of the chickens get beaned by the windfalls.

I haven’t even picked any off the tree, but the number that I’ve picked off the ground already exceeds the amount the squirrels have ever allowed me to get before.

I’ll have to look up how to treat walnuts; how to get them out of the green wrapper.

Fowl weather shelters

Because I want my chickens to be comfortable  at all times (Spoiled Rotten Chicken Club, Ch II), when it rains I run out and drape their coops with plastic to make a tent.

This has drawbacks, not the least of which is that it looks like some old plastic bags blew through the field and got snagged.  It takes time to put them up and tie off the corners, it’s a dirty job, and it makes it a bear to close the ramps at night and nearly impossible to get the eggs.

The hens appreciate it, though, they run and huddle under there when it starts to pour, so I keep doing it (since last year).  And cringing at the visual effect.

Finally, I made the hen rain shelters I dreamed of!  They’re very light (flimsy) frames, that are hinged on the top so I can easily fold them up, and probably store leaning on the back of the greenhouse when it’s not raining.

They’re made from fertilizer bag liners (neighbour), the same bags I was using before.  The plastic breaks down in time in the UV, but the bags are free and abundant, so it’s not a big deal to re-plastic down the road.

The hens like the clear plastic because they can see shapes approaching through it.

Now at least it looks like I mean for them to be there.

And of course, a guinea has to stand on top of it.  That’s what all structures are for.

I made three of them.  Each coop gets a tent adjunct, and the third is for the guineas.  We set it right over top of the broody guinea.  Can’t hurt to keep her dry; all the others will happily stay dry if they can.  She was angry about the installation!  But got right back on her eggs.

The guineas don’t mind if they do.
ALL structures

Cosmic cloud

I have a cloud of cosmos.  It’s truly the best feature of my garden.  It almost distracts from the untamed  strawberries disrespectfully sprawling, and the weeds I haven’t got to yet, and the aisles that used to be woodchips now growing up in weeds.  Almost.

The bees love them!  They seem more pretty than substantial, but the bees are crowded on them, so they must offer some abundant nutrition.

Sunflowers

When the sunflowers all tipped over what seemed like the same day a few weeks ago –

Timber!

I thought it was annoying, and that maybe their heads finally got too big for their roots.  I intended to tie them back upright with string.  It didn’t occur to me that they were mature.

And since I’ve been sadly neglecting my greenhouse, and never did get around to re-erecting them, by the time I hacked my way in there, now on a salvage mission since the stalks were dead and yellowing, the heads were on their way to mold (!).

Totally mature, fat seeds and plump kernels inside.  So there I go.  The birds will enjoy this year (only a couple heads were lost).

Sunflowers mature extremely quickly in the greenhouse, it appears, and I suppose I planted these early (beg May).  The ones I have outside are far from finished.

I feel like I need to explain giving good GH space to sunflowers: for some reason I have very little luck growing them outside.  They are very attractive fodder for various munchers for far too long- until they’re some feet high, I think.  And then, the wild birds empty the heads before the kernels even ripen.  I have more room in the GH than I know what to do with, so why not stick some squash and sunnies in there?

Pig plowshares

“Pigs plow a field with their face.  If that doesn’t seem remarkable to you, try it sometime.” – Forrest Pritchard, Gaining Ground

It’s really laborious to move the pigs right now, at least a morning’s work.  It’s really three jobs at once: moving the pigs, clearing alders,  and cutting firewood.  At least that’s what I tell myself.

I’m trying to win back some of the field, and using the pigs to do it.  I’m moving them along the edge of the present field, which is a good 50´, maybe more, grown in from where the field used to spread.

I certainly wouldn’t be pegging away at it like I am unless I had these greedy little snouts pressuring me.  They LIVE to root.  They will wait to eat fruit, if there’s some fresh rooting to do.  They’re in the ZONE rooting, focused, concentrating, pretty quiet.  Trouble is, they turn over a patch so fast I feel like I’m constantly working for them, to give them new space.

To create a loop that the fence can be set up, that encloses some “trees” for pig shade, a swathe needs to be cut out for passage.  Then after the pigs have been through and killed every sprout and twig, their shade needs to be cut down and cut up, and then the nicely tilled, though lumpy, ground seeded.

Before
Fence corridor cut out
Pigs attack
After

The alders stretch out long arms before they grow up, but still, they’re easier to deal with than the buckthorn, which tangles, and tangles, and tangles, so you can cut loads of it, and it’s all still standing up, because it’s so tangled together.  Mix them together, the sideways swooping alder, and the straight, thick branched buckthorn- wow.

 

An amazing volume of material comes out of even a small space that didn’t seem so dense when it was all standing up.

The nightmare buckthorn at least burns nice; it’s a hardwood, dries fast, doesn’t need to be split.

 

It all becomes clear

The guineas are building an army.

Now the chicks are all transitioning from their brown juvenile feathers to the polka dot adult feathers (and looking quite scrappy while they’re at it), and they are large.  And loud.  They move like a school of fish still and they’re bold.  Bolder in numbers.

They look like they’re performing maneuvers half the time.  Flank the food dish!  Charge the walnut tree!  Establish defensive positions around Mom!  Recon missions around corner of greenhouse!  Circle back!

I have to get rid of some, I mean, give some away, but I haven’t got any bright ideas how to trap them.

Slipper season!?

Fall is here. It snuck in one week and although the season could be said to change overnight, it was hard to pin it on which night, exactly.

I haven’t built a fire yet, but I usually hold out quite a while before I give in to a fire. No reason, other than my long habit of stretching my cold tolerance. HW is already wearing insulated Carhartt jackets and flannel shirts; I’m still in shorts (with my slippers).

The chickens are no-necking in the mornings, seeming a little grumpy about it. No outright frost yet, though, to reveal all the squashes. Any day.

Pig pranks

I went out to feed the pigs lunch, and it was quiet.

Suspiciously quiet.

They are usually oinking with impatience; they have loudly ticking and highly accurate food clocks. I walked over to shut off the fencer, and I didn’t see pigs anywhere.

Oh no.

I just moved them yesterday, the fence was sound, did they seriously make a jail break? F#$%!

I started walking again and Oink! I heard a little grunt.

I stared into their enclosure. Wait, is that? What? No way! There’s a pig in there?

No, there was two pigs in there. They had burrowed under a pile of branches, and were barely, barely discernible in the pile of brush. Totally concealed.

Any reason for this gilly-suit behaviour? Unknown.

When I started walking away, they came snorting out, shaking off the branches, scampering out oinking joyously. I suspect it was purely a game.  I doubt it was comfortable. I’ve never seen pigs dig their way under a brush pile.  I think I just got pig-pranked.

Let’s see if she can find us here. Bet she can’t! Hold still!  She doesn’t see us! You’d better oink! No, you oink! She’s walking away, doesn’t see us, hahaha! Oink! She still can’t see us and I oinked,  hahaha, she’s looking right at us! Haha, oh, we got you good!

Guinea crisis II

She’s on her nest alright, but the mystery of why I hadn’t missed her is solved: she can’t resist dinner.

The other guineas hang out right on top of her most of the day, sunning, and grooming, and chatting.  Literally, even.  The “chicks”, little butterballs now half the size of full grown birds, hop over and on top of her, hunkered down in her nest.    I don’t know what she thinks of this; she always looks angry, flattened out on her eggs, but she is easy to check in on now, with the weeds trampled around her.  In fact, I went and clustered some cut weeds around her to help her out.

The whole group of guineas hovers around her like she’s the kitchen stove, generally blowing up her spot.

But when the rest of the flock left to visit the trough, she went running along behind!  I’ll eat too!  Then I swooped in to make adjustments, but she hawk-eyed my every move from the food dish.  She didn’t run me though, just watched, neck long.

I moved the pigs in another direction, after a long and laborious session cutting out alders and buckthorn.  Then, of course, a pig slips out, right by the nest!  The pig fence is about four feet from where she decided to brood.

I kept the other pig in, but the free pig, not caring about togetherness for the moment, started romping around the field, and ran right over the nest.  She came bursting out, attacking the pig, as all the other guineas, even the chicks, join the skirmish. I’m chasing the pig with a stick, the birds are all screaming and flapping, together trying to defend against the pig, but a pig is a pig, oblivious, gleefully prancing around.

I’m horrified; I have to get back to the house for the milk- the only sure pig bait, but the birds don’t stand a chance while I’m gone.  This pig is going to stomp in and snarfle up all the eggs in seconds. I run for the milk, hoping only that the pig finds something else to do for the moment.

I get back, the nest is still intact, all the guineas shrieking in phalanx.

I easily catch the pig again with the milk, and I finish moving them, and everything is ok.

The hen’s scowl may have deepened, but she’s back on her eggs, crisis averted.  This hen has had to put up with a lot, and she’s barely started.

Near tragedy

Our wonderful neighbour was over to bush-hog my field last night.  I need to move the greenhouse this year (not looking forward to it, no), and there were some robust shrubs growing right where it needs to go.

Anyhoo, he was driving around, mowing, and once, right when he came to a stop, I saw the weeds rustle directly in front of his front wheel.  As he backed out, I ran to the spot, fearing that a bird had been hit (I’d been paranoid and been tramping through all the weeds in front of him trying to flush out frightened chickens that were used to the tall weeds being a safe zone).

Horrors!  A nest!

A guinea nest.   His front tractor wheel had rolled into it, crushing a half dozen eggs, but not rolled over it, so most of the eggs were intact.  The eggs were kindled, with bloody yolks, but only a few days past.  I quickly scooped out shells and yolks, tossing them out, trying to clean up the mess with my fingers and restore her nest.  It was a nice nest, too, dried grasses lined up in a swirl. 

The hen herself had stayed to the bitter end, jumping out only when that black tire loomed over her, and we had both seen her flee at the last second.  My flushing hadn’t unseated her, only imminent death.

I did not bother her again by “checking on her” that night, hoping she would come back.

I didn’t even know I had a broody guinea!  I hadn’t missed her.

And what is she thinking?  Aren’t there enough brats around?  I’m flattered that she thinks this is a great place to raise children, but how many is enough?  Sheesh.

In the morning she was on her nest.   I can see her scowling in there. 

Hopefully she got back on them promptly; if she returned by nightfall the remaining eggs would be fine.  Now the weeds are gone, she’s far less concealed.  Her nest has a view.

Right there by the pigland too, right where I was planning to shift the oinkers to next.

 

No peep

The Blondies are losing their peep.  They’re starting to make different sounds.  Not yet grownup sounds, just different.   Sometimes it sounds like there’s a duck around.

There’s two males:(  The darkest one has just developed faster, showing a comb and being bossy.  But I caught the two of them head-bobbing at each other – the tell-tale rooster reveal.

They are pretty fully integrated into the house mooching chicken club now (the layers).  Flapping into the woods at any fast movements.  Run away!

Down came the rain, and washed the spider out

It’s a rainy day.

I was out doing stuff and I happened to grab the end of the woodshed gutter and lift it to drain out the water (it’s all janky- not enough mounting brackets – gets overwhelmed in squalls).

I felt something move under my palm, and my hand came away with a little silk, but I was fully turned away to the next thing before I got that thought.

You know, the Whattttt… did I just touch/see/step on? thought, that dawns after the fact.

I turned back to look, and there was a HUGE spider.  Not at all itsy bitsy.  Legs all bundled up, huddled on the only dry square inch.  Avoiding the downpour.

I really appreciate that she didn’t bite me.  When I squeezed her.  For a prolonged moment.

 

Guinea growth

The guineas are growing up.  There’s fourteen left – two disappeared along the way.  They’re still running along usually like one school of fish behind one hen, but sometimes they break into a couple of groups, and even get caught alone.  Then there is shrieking, when they look up and realize everyone’s gone.  I’m alone!

They’re SO fast, and they can fly quite well.  They’re starting to make their transition from brown stripes to black and white dots, but they still have the bright orange feet.

They’re also lost their “chick immunity”, and can and will get pecked for being rude, especially by the layer hens.  One of the guinea cocks seemed to be being a real jerk, chasing and attacking the chicks all the time.  But I have a theory that that’s a developmental strategy, like play fighting or wrestling, that he’s teaching them the art of escaping attack (try catching one).  Especially since the hen is right there letting him do it.

In the morning the group fills the feed platter, literally.  They eat, get full quickly, and then depart.  I give them a chance and then let the chickens out.  Through the day the guineas spend their time quite far afield (or awoods), sauntering through chicken land at times for a snack.

The adult flock escorts the chick flock less.  One hen has resumed her partnership with a cock and the two of them travel together independently.  The other pair and the bachelor accompany the chicks.

Hey, I wouldn’t mind getting here for some food.

 

 

Goodbye Granny

Little Granny died last night.  The last of my three original hens out here.

She’s been hopping around with surprising vigor this summer, but I guess it was her time.  Yesterday I found her face down in the grass against the greenhouse and I thought she was dead then.

I picked her up gently and her head popped up with the usual indignation Hey, what’s a chicken gotta do to get a nap around here? so I set her down again nearer the flock, but that was it.

She made a rapid transition.  Often hens linger for a few days, standing around in a kind of half-asleep state before they go.  I always wonder if they’re in pain when they go like that, but they seem to just slip away, from dozing to tucking their head under a wing for the last time.

 

Somebody laid their first  egg!  Size of a quarter.

Or else it´s a last gasp.

Here’s the baby bunny, bellied up to the food dish.  I haven’t seen it for a few days and it’s grown.  Never see any adult rabbits near it.  Cute little thing, loping, all long legs like a puppy, about the size of a can of beans.

Take a picture, though, and it looks like a normal, grownup rabbit.

What’s that white pompom doing with those chickens?

You should see the Oreos now.

They still pal around with the Silkie mom who raised them, but they both tower over her. The size differential is quite amusing. 

Even though they´re not full grown, they´re getting quite magnificent.  Slate on black feathers with hints of emerald green, and both of them developed copper in their neck feathers.

They´re supposed to be Ameracuanas, but I think some Copper Maran got in that mix.  Will the eggs be blue or brown?

One looks like a rooster, with a little pink of comb coming in.

Sunbathing and pig lunch

It´s a nice hot day, so the chickens decided to flake out in the path.These are the Famous Five, the house moochers.  They just kind of tip over like beached boats, and stick out a wing.

Even Jean Jacket‘s in there.

Or they´ll find some shade where they can get it.

Even a Brahma is lounging.I wanted to not get these pigs stuck on a 3x/day feeding schedule so it was possible to leave for the day, so they get their piggy rations morning and night, but to tide them over, they also get a 5 gal bucket of apples every day, or whatever fruit/scraps/vegetables (It’s a good time of year to be a pig).

Usually, there are several apples left over come supper time.  If there are no apples, then I know they had a big day, and they’re legitimately hungry for dinner.Today they got turnips and kale too, and happily, they loved the kale, eating it first.  I wasn’t sure after the cucumbers. They stand on it to rip a piece off with their mouths, like they’ve done it before.

These pigs have the craziest eyebrows! They’re wild Grandpa Wizard eyebrows, like visors.

So cute!