Category Archives: Family + Friends + Animals

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?”

Finally, a few pictures of the elusive guinea chicks

Over and over, all I get to see is lots of little guineas vanishing into the brush.This morning, they were under the chicken’s coop before I opened it.

They have little wings of their own now, and they are at least doubled in size from when they hatched.  Still with Big Bird orange feet and beaks.

I can’t believe one hen can cover them at night, and I think of her when it pours cats and dogs at night, resolutely making herself into a tent.  In the morning, all the chicks are dry.

They still move en masse, attended constantly by all five adults.  They get superlative parenting.

They aren’t quite as terrified of us, and I got closer today than ever before.  Now they leave when I come around, rather than flee. Not quite as much of a panic.   And the adults show their suspicion but are more tolerant.

I even got a chance to count them! and there are definitely 16, so that means that little spinaround chick made it.  I’m glad:)

Hot day

It´s a HOT day. (30C, haha!) No one has much energy, including me. It´s hard to move quickly or remember things.

The hens are rolled on their sides with their wings spread like fans and legs stuck out at anatomically improbable angles.

The Colonel usually doesn´t let down his hair like this.

The pigs just sleep in their wallow when it’s this hot, and they get two deliveries of water poured over their backs. They are very happy with their last move – more buckthorn forest to laze around in.

I saw our big old snapping turtle friend, but he didn´t let me get a picture. He´s too fast for that.

Almost bacon

The pigs don’t know it, but their days are numbered.  They’re busy living the good life.

They seem so big!  All jowlly and robust.  They never outgrew a good sprint, and they love the daily wallow – I pour a bucket of water over them every afternoon, and they’ll leave behind food at the sound of me pouring out some water – they run to me and flop down in the puddle.

Adventure Pig

Spots

The oinkers have  ravaged this last fence placement, but they love it- they sleep at night under the shrubs – really they spend most of their time cashed out in the dirt under those shrubs.  It wasn’t easy getting the fence to surround that big patch of buckthorn, either, but they are expressively appreciative of my effort.But what’s this in the background?  Oh, just the resident chickens.

Resident is not an exaggeration.

Tribe Oreo decided ages ago to live with the pigs.  The Oreos and their Silkie stepmom leave the coop in the morning, go directly to Pigland, jump through the electric fence (which is, in fact, energized), and spend the entire day in there, leaving at darkfall to go back to the coop.  Every day.  For weeks.

They share the pig house.  Birds and pigs all sleep in there together when it gets hot or rains.

The Oreos are black as crows and weigh as much as their mom now.  They are big on perching, and like to jump up in those tangled shrubs.  One is a rooster, already standing up to the Silkie roos.

Probably the one eyeballing me is the rooster

They spend the day roaming around the pig enclosure, perfectly satisfied to stay inside the fence.

We speculated.  That the hen likes it in there because she is safe from the attention of the roosters.  That they like the pig food, or benefit from the pigs’ rooting.  I tried putting her in the coop with the Colonel, to see if she would stay with him and under his protection.  Nope.  Pigland by day and the Brahma coop at night.  She knows what she wants.

Hers and Hers

I’ve got another broody hen, so now the eggery is a duplex.

The first broody – the most tolerant little girl who was keeping the orphan guinea warm for a few days (that little keet expired after all) – is due any day, if she was successful.  Her attachment to a daily meal may have left her eggs cold for too long.

I haven’t really thought through the extra occupation of the the chickery, but I’ll probably release the first set of chicks into the greenhouse jungle when they come.

The new broody is the biggest of all the silkie hens; she’s easily covering 9 eggs.

The first broody has stuck to her daily break time throughout her term-  a new quirk, and the box inside the chickery has worked perfectly.  She comes out, eats, poops, and then creeps back into her box, talking to her eggs the whole time, which is adorable.  I’m coming back…here I am.

Eye wide open

There’s 16!

I haven’t managed to get any good pictures of the pile of guinea chicks.

What I have is a rolls worth of pictures of guinea butts disappearing into the grass, maybe a glimpse of keets following behind.

 

I’ve seen them!  I’ve surprised them, walking out with a bucket of food (no camera), and the guineas will be in town.  One hen rises to her feet and all the little keets tumble around her legs, like someone dumped out a salad bowl of chicks, and then they scramble into the grass or bushes.

It’s easy to watch them as a group – the adults stick out, but the chicks themselves are still so tiny they vanish in the weeds and can best be perceived by the grass rustling above them.

They’re amazing parents.  Now we’re not sorry to have so many cocks.  They seem to be paired up (one cock went out to get the Lady of the Woods, one coaxed coop mama out), so one cock still needs a lady, but all five travel in a tight bunch, all obviously involved in chickcare – education, herding, and retrieval.

The keets don’t distinguish between mothers.  They move in one crowd, and all go under one hen for warming and nighttime.  16 of them!  I can’t tell the hens apart to look at them, so we don’t know if it’s always the same hen settling on them, but my guess is that they share the job.  The keets and hen settle down in the grass at night, and until last night, the rest of the flock stayed with her.  Last night, the others all got up on the coop.  Which raises a problem:  What happens when 16 chicks are capable of flying up to roost on the coop!?

HW calls the one hen Mama Missile Launcher.  She’s a grass torpedo.  It may be either hen any given time, but it’s always a hen that launches an attack if you get too close.  Charge!  Very scary.  I had picked up the little spinaround keet that got left behind and brought it closer to the group, when the mom charged me, flying right at my face.  I blocked with my arms, and she went over my head, thumping me on the noggin with her feet as she went.  Whapwhapwhap!  I hope the little dizzy chick made it, because I haven’t been involved since.

I’m watching you!

 

Blondies at large

The Blondies have seemingly recovered from the loss of their mom.  It was a very sad few days, for everyone, but they’ve come out from hiding in the bush.

It’s still sad, that they’re orphaned.  No guardian, no snuggling in the dust bath.  They used to cheep all the time, and seem to instinctively know that cheeping is maladaptive when you’re alone in the world.  They don’t cheep very much now. 

They are miniature chickens, grown up early.  They stick together and go all over foraging.  They loosely hang with the Silkies, and go in the coop at night, but they are their own clique, and they’re still just little! 

Out they come

Time to release the guineas!

I made a big ramp with a board, not that I really expect them to come walking down the ramp, and more importantly, piled hay all over the ground and especially over the feet of the coop, where I expect the chicks to all plummet to earth.

Then I carefully removed the screen door, slowly backed away, and plunk!  A chick fell out.  It bounced and rolled in the hay and got stuck face down.  I set it on its feet and Oh no! Another neurological disorder.  Its head was all floppy and it couldn’t stand right.  I snatched it up and held it, and carried it around for a bit.

It wobbled around a bit and then seemed to figure out which way was up and how to stand.    I set up camp to watch the rest exit the coop, wanting to be on hand for any rescues. The chick in my lap turned into a ball of energy, scampering up my arms, down my shirt, so I set it on the ground, and it ran around in tight circles.  Very quickly.  What is wrong with these chicks? 

It ran in circles like it was on a three inch picket, zoom zoom zoom, until it fell over, then got up and did it again.  Circles, circles, circles, peeping.  Then it ran a little bit in a straight line (phew!)  Circle, circle circle…straight line! Like it had to get wound up and then shot out of the centrifugal force.  Fall over, repeat.  The cocks came running over to the chick, and the chick tried to respond, running into their feet, and finding comfort in them, ceasing to peep for its mother, and following them around.  In circles.

Meanwhile, I waited for the hen and her chicks to come out of the coop.  And waited.  And waited and waited.  And some more.

One of the cocks started jumping up on the coop, and going into it, then coming out, jumping down, and doing it again.  He was pretty obviously trying to talk her out.

He’d jump up, stand by the door, look or go in, linger, jump down, and immediately start long necking up at the coop before jumping back up.  Repeat.

He’s using the ramp

Sometimes she would come to the door, sometimes chicks would come to the door, but they weren’t uncoordinated enough to fall out.

Dozens of times he did this trip, up and down, up and down.  Come on out of there!

Ultimately she came out when I wasn’t looking and left the chicks behind, huddled and peeping in the far corner.  I went to scoop them out and she flew at me like a launched missile.  I put on Carhartts and safety glasses and tried again.  There were five little chicks in the coop, plus the dizzy one, and two lay dead among the 14 unhatched eggs (wow, she was sitting on 23 eggs!).

I can’t tell how many chicks in total from both hens, because the chicks tumble around in the grass.  There’s a lot! Vertigo chick integrated into the group even before its mom emerged, but it was always getting left behind.  The others would drift off, and it would look up, find itself alone, and then peep!  zoom around  in circle, and then shoot out straight for a few feet, trying to catch up.  I felt sorry for it, running 3x as far as any of the others and always a bit behind.  But it was managing.

The orphaned guinea chick in the infirmary is possibly improving. It’s gained enough motor skills to control its head and it comes out from under the wing on its own and toddles around. 

It has the strength to struggle against being held, but can barely walk. 

It’s  also very good at getting into scrapes, finding somewhere to get stuck upside down or jammed into, shivering.  I’ve rescued it from the edge of death a few times, forcing it to have a sip of water and then tucking it back under a wing.  The Silkies are so tolerant.  She’s on her eggs, she doesn’t care about any additions.   Funny that one of the Silkie hens was once a  resigned warming oven to the guineas that are adult now.

It’s so cute! I’m caring for it, making it drink and trying to make it eat baby mash of ground up seeds and applesauce, but there’s really no endgame for this chick.  It won’t make it without parenting, and it’s highly unlikely to catch up to be able to keep up with all of its siblings as they travel along.  Maybe though; I’m surprised every time I find it still alive.

Hates it!

The Lady of the Woods

Paranoid about the tragic  loss of Blondie mom, I got downright defeatist over the disappearance in the morning of a guinea cock.  What the?  A guinea cock?  It must be a raptor, snatched him off the coop.  What am I going to do, sit out there all day with a rifle?  Predator problems, just as the guineas are hatching!?

Inside the sky coop, there are chicks.  I can’t tell how many!  Five?

Psycho cobra mom hurls herself at the screen, and the little chicks who sometimes peek out the screen door scurry to the back of the coop, so I don’t know how many there are.

I’ve been nudging bowls of food and water inside the door, and mom doesn’t care why I’m reaching in, she means to take my arm off for it.  Beak to arm: whackwhackwhackwhackwhackwhack! 

Three times a day, so no one gets dehydrated. When they’re empty, I hear her pecking and clanking the dishes together in there.  Sounds like a busy diner.

I quickly learned to tie a string onto the bowls so I can pull them back out instead of reaching in for them.

She’s got no problem eating the food, once I back off, but cut me a break for the delivery?  No way! 

Definitely five

The guinea cocks gave away the hatching.  When we first saw the telltale eggshell, we both said “I knew something was up!” For the previous two days, the three guinea cocks were extra attached to the coop.  Sitting on the roof, looking in, even in the middle of the day.  I think they were excited.  They haven’t stopped, they are animated and keeping close to the new mom.

 

Gazing through the screen door.

But now, only two.  The third, gone all morning.

What’s this?  The guineas were hollering, as they do, and it was sustained, long enough for me to check on them, and I go and Oh!  There he is, coming out of the woods.  I count, yep, three… wait… I count again.  Four.   I check that the screen door isn’t breached.  Four!

No way!  The hen that disappeared two months ago is marching out of the woods, just like I hoped!  With her proud and loud escort, klaxoning the whole way.  He was missing half the day because he went to walk her home, and the others stayed with coop mom!  I’m sure that the cocks have always known where she set, and have been regularly visiting her her whole term.

But does she have chicks?

There she is, very furtive, and yes, there are chicks!  At least two!

She spent all that time, all those rainstorms, no shelter. No snack boxes.  She’s not even acting ravenous.

A triumphant homecoming for the Lady of the Woods.  She came right back to the old digs, hanging around under the sky coop.  The guineas are very familial.  The cocks are very much part of the parenting team.

The chicks are so tiny it’s hard to believe they’re making woods treks already.  They tumble out of the grass and then toddle back in, and don’t stay right with mom.  They’re comfortable getting a ways away..  They are very quiet peepers, unlike a chicken chick that will get piercing (they make up for that later in life).

Also, the attack mom is even more terrifying when she’s not in a box.  She charges like a bull, with no fear.  The wings go up in this flat fronted wall of feathers, and then the red mouth open, and worst, the crazy look in her eye, coming at you!

I dared to walk within 8 feet of her brood and got run at.

Tomorrow, I will open the door to the sky coop, and let them all out into the world.

Orphans

Sad.

The Blondies’ Silkie stepmom has disappeared.  There are no signs of foul play.  Not a feather.  I don’t know what happened to her, or exactly when.  I’ve never lost a bird to a predator in the middle of summer.  Now I can be paranoid all the time.

The Blondies have already learned to go in the coop, are hanging around the Silkie flock, are very clever about hiding in the bushes, and are feathered enough to survive, but it is a sad loss, even just to lose a good mothering hen.  They are without a champion to throw elbows in the food dish.  I suppose hunger will overcome timidity.

The guinea hen in the sky coop also rejected one chick.  It was flopping around with a strange inability to stand or to hold its head up, like it has a neurological disease, or a broken back.

The hen rolled it out to let it die, and HW demanded that I do something to save it.  I said “you stick your hand in that coop”.  (He did)

I tucked the little gibbled chick under the brooding Silkie in the Eggery, and it survived the first night.  I’ve seen a chick once with this weird disability, and it made a full recovery.  So there’s hope, but I don’t hold out too much.

It can look all normal for a bit

 

So cute!
And then its head flops back unnaturally
It struggles to move around. The Silkie hen is very indulgent, allowing us to use her as a heat lamp.

Eggery

I thought the hens would go broody like bowling pins, but not so; they’re all having too much fun outside.  Now the first two hens have chicks out in the wild, nearly grown up, another is finally broody (Only three more yet to brood this year!).  She has Silkie eggs under her, for a change, to replenish the flock (I sold more than I meant to).

Most times when a hen goes broody she sits on the eggs and doesn’t get up.  I can put them in a cramped box with a water cup and snack bowl and they don´t budge until the eggs crack.

This hen is different.  I was sure she was broody, but I kept seeing her outside every mid-morning for an hour or so.  I gave her some eggs, and thought that would change, but six days later, she was faithful to her eggs…as long as she had a breakfast break.  Different.

So I repurposed the vacant chickery, and made a hen apartment in the greenhouse. 

It´s like a little suite.  She has her dark egg room, but she can come out for a drink and scratch, or a dirt bath if she wants.  She even has her own sunflower for a houseplant.  It’s draped over with some canvas to keep it cooler.

Plus there will be no transfer when the eggs hatch.  They will already be in the chickery and just get moved outside.

She’s SO in the zone.  You’d never guess she will shake off that trance for awhile every day,  then return.

Yes, they are fine to get off their eggs periodically, even for hours, especially in the summer.  Brief cooling may even be good for them.  The hen knows best.

 

When they were small…

Now they are scampering around outside with the big flock wearing proper wings and tails and surely thinking they are all grown up, but when they were merely days old…

I was working in the greenhouse, the Chickery was in there with me because the chicks were brand new (they have a few chickery days in the greenhouse before going outside), and the Blondies and their mom were rummaging around in it, as they do.

I noticed she seemed to be digging with unusually single-minded determination in one corner.

I looked in on them once and she had dug a hole.  I thought, any minute, a chick is going to be able to slip out of there.

Before I turned away, one did.

Then another. 

 

When she would pause her digging efforts, a chick would dive in to see if there was anything interesting in the hole, and retreat when dirt started flying again.

Once all the chicks were popping in and out like electrons, I decided it was time for them to go outside. 

I popped a box over top of Mom (highly offended noises), lifted the chickery off and wrestled it outside while the chicks cheeped in the corner.

Then I grabbed the chicks and introduced them to grass.  Then I went back to the grumbling, rattling box, and returned mom to the chicks. 

Outdoors time!

Jean jacket chicken

I have one chicken having a hard time.  She´s a low chicken – the lowest – I call her Sidewinder because of her habitual cringing deferential walk.  She arrived like that.  She had a chance at a fresh start – no one knew she was a low chicken before – but she blew it.  Creeping and ducking – she got pegged as low from the beginning.

She´s molted, so she was practically naked.

Her wing shoulders were getting all raw too, from the rooster’s attention, but that problem is eliminated along with the rooster.  Jacques went in the pot for repeated bad behavior, and it was high time.  I couldn´t go out there without a stick and I counted on the protection of the Colonel.  He was very good looking, but a good-looking jerk.  Now it´s much more peaceful in chicken land, for everyone.

Then I think she had a close call with a raptor (unusual in the spring – perhaps it was a spat with a peer).  I think so because there was an alarming feather splotch by the trail, and I had heard a shriek, but then there was no one missing, and Sidewinder turned up with the last few cling-on feathers on her back gone.  Totally naked.

But now she has a jean jacket.

 

I was at my friend’s (Spoiled Rotten Chicken Club, chapter III), and half her flock was running around in jean jackets.  It was cool, rainy weather, of course.  She´d made a whole rack of them from a pattern on the internet.  I couldn´t stop laughing.  The ones in jackets looked tough, or swaggery, like they were proud of their duds.  And the colouring of some of the Ameracaunas with grey-blue wings in their jackets was uncanny.

It’s like Toad Hall, or (some other UK childrens’ stories where the animals all wear vests and/or cravats) come to life. 

She gave me one for my beleaguered naked chicken, and she’s rocking’ it.  A little warmth, a little sun protection, and a little peck barrier.  It hasn´t seemed to gain her any status though.

HW says they all need club patches.

Chicken trap

I can explain.

I caught a chicken!

I had the raccoon trap set up for a couple of days (two raccoons down-no damage incurred-different story).  The chickens ignored the trap.

Then HW came in from closing the coops last night and asked “So do you want the trap set again?  Should I bait it with an egg?”

Me: “Isn´t it set?  What do you mean? It was set an hour ago!”

You see, somebody left a snack in here.

HW:  “Oh yeah?  It was set an hour ago?”

Then he showed me the picture.

And I laughed, and laughed.  When he let her out she “took off” for the coop.

But there had been a cracked egg in the trap – the bait.

No trace remained of the egg.  I bet she thoroughly enjoyed that, eating it all to herself with no competition.  It was probably worth it.

The time of the fledglings

In addition to the local young woodpecker, who continues to flop around the house with no fear and seems to never get more than five feet off the ground, I found this little guy on our path.

I surprised the whole family, I suppose, as there were three full size robins flapping around in the trees, panicking and screeching.  The chick, size of a guinea chick, let me walk right up.

It doesn´t seem to have a lot of lift.  It seemed a big achievement to make it up on the stick pile, and then it flap flap flap! Coasted down into the field.  I wonder if this is the first day out of the nest. 

 

There´s a woodpecker zooming backing and forth from in front of the beehive to over the poplars behind the pigs.  She´s as regular as a transatlantic flight and obviously is tending a nest at one end of the flight path, or the other.

Meanwhile, back in the livestock zone:

It´s a pig´s life.  The pigs are happy to lounge in the shade. 

The Oreo mom insists on being inside the pig fence.  She´s mastered jumping up and through, where the holes in the fence are bigger, while the babies flow right through.

She´s out there now, smack in the middle of pigland.  She found a shady spot she likes.

I guess the pigs have proved that they won´t hurt her or her chicks.  At least she´s not worried.  They are 15´away sleeping off a big meal of milk  in the pig house.

Now I can´t electrify the fence if she´s making a habit of this.  Which is ok.  The fence is off more often than on these days.  The pigs and I have an agreement.  If I meet all their needs, they are perfectly content to stay in the fence.  Which means they are really in charge.  They´re simple girls, though.  They want shade, water – poured in the bowl and over their heads, variety, food before they get too hungry, and sometimes a scratch.

Funny how the birds make decisions.  Or is it the chicks?  Oreo mom has been all independent and  furtive, always hiding in shrubs and drifting out into the pasture, towards the pigs where only  the guineas roam, while Blondie mom has went her way the opposite direction and rejoined the Colonel´s main tribe.  Hey, I had some chicks!

Tomatoes already?!

I haven’t even gotten everything into my garden yet, and tomatoes are already forming in the greenhouse.  I’ve also canned a round of rhubarb.  I think it’s not good when the harvest starts before the planting is done.  Better…next…year.

In the meantime, my greenhouse companions, the Blondies, are joyously scritching around in the heavy mulch, until it gets too hot and I kick them outside for the day.

One chick decided to have a dust bath.  Very funny – a chick the size of a tennis ball taking a dust bath.  Really into it.  I’ve not seen a little chick dust bathe before.

They’re getting their wing feathers and little stubby tails.

A pile of snakes sunning in the pile of straw.

The walnut tree roosters

The funniest thing about the arrival of the Brahmas is the reaction of the Silkie roosters – the two “exiles” as I call them, since they don´t interact with the main tribe and mostly hide in the coop.  Or did, until the Brahmas came.

I think they feel they´ve gone to heaven since the Brahmas arrived.  The second night they were sandwiched between the big pillowy ladies.  I  haven´t been this comfortable since I was a chick. 

And ever since they´re really coming out of their shell.  No more hiding in the coop.  They hang all day in the shrub with the Brahmas, who really just lie around.

The big sign of transformation is that they are starting to crow!  It´s not pretty (whoa, is there a rooster gargling over there?).  That means they are feeling very good about themselves.  Looks like some new copper tail feathers are coming in too.  I’m glad they’re so happy.

They don’t mate the big girls (larger than they are).  They seem perfectly content to snuggle.

Good looking guys.

I call them the walnut tree tribe – the mixed bunch of chickens who have decided they live in the small coop under the walnut.  They are a distinct group now.  Mom and the Oreos, the two roos, and the Brahmas.  They interact surprisingly little with the Silkies who moved into the big coop, who live just at the other end of the greenhouse.  The guineas and layer hens freely visit either tribe, and a couple of layers drop off eggs in the small coop.

What, were you born in a box?

A chicken in a box in the greenhouse? Nothing new there!

That’s where all the chicks and moms get put, at night, when they are put to bed from the chickery.

Thing is, I didn´t put her in there! 

I think, maybe once, this mom and the Blondies  got put to bed in the box.  As soon as I put the chickery outside, it started raining, so I turned them loose in the greenhouse, which they love, for the rain days.

But here they are, as dusk falls, all in the box.   This is where we sleep.

I wish I could have seen how that went down.  OK, kids, time to get in the box! That´s quite a jump.

And then, in the morning, they´re all out of the box and back to work!

To the tomato forest!

They love the tomato forest. So much mulch to kick around.

I turfed them all out into the big world, though, because it was too hot in the greenhouse.  Even though they were all hiding under a squash leaf.

They got readmitted late afternoon, and tonight, they´re all back in the box!