Category Archives: Family + Friends + Animals

Fall in the mud

Having a mud bath late afternoon at this time of year?  It’s not that warm. They’re into it, though.And after a good restful mud flop, it’s time to go ruffle up one’s hay bed.And then get food stuck in your forehead hair. The Colonel got into the greenhouse today, laid down the law.  I left the door ajar while I was cleaning coops, and then there was a kerfuffle inside, and then there was a bigger kerfuffle outside, as the Deputy seized the moment and tried to seize the Colonel’s hens while he was otherwise occupied.

Funny, I tried and tried to get the Colonel to go in the greenhouse a month ago and fertilize the GH hens, but he wasn’t having it then.

Back to coop training: Well, that looks exactly like yesterday. The Silkie chicks are all This is what we do, we huddle up in a pile on the floor, and the Chantis are cramming themselves in the broody box.  I’m sure Mom loves that.  She’s still got her mud dreads, I see.

Coop training II

The answer (to how many went in the coop on their own tonight):

One.

Mom.  She probably remembers well living in a wooden box, and is right at home. 

Chick roundup night two went better, the last Silkie chick (different one) left running around found its own way in quite rapidly.

All the Chanticleers were piled in the cardboard broody box with “their” mom, who’s trying to work on the next batch.  They aren’t so sure about this coop business.

 

 

Coop training.

The skycoop has been reinvented as a starter coop.  Since a guinea got snatched off of it  (owl), the guineas have abandoned it like it was the center of a sexting scandal.  So I took the legs off and we put it in the emptying greenhouse, to stuff the chicks into.  They need to start sleeping in a coop, to make them portable.

And to keep them safe.  Sleeping on the ground isn’t good for chickens, and the greenhouse is not totally secure.

They’re kind of looking grown up.  Still miniature though. After dark, I went chick snatching.  The first eleven chicks took about three minutes to grab, one or two at a time, and pop into the coop, where they instantly went silent.  Oh, dark and cozy.  Oh, everyone’s in here. 

Some were feisty, some were mild.  This is the first time I’ve ever handled any of them.

The twelfth chick took about 20 minutes.  After everyone else mysteriously vanished, he/she ran around distressed, chirping, unwilling to settle down.  It took forever.  Finally she figured out where everyone else was, tried to crawl under the coop, and I got her in.  Taking wagers on how many go in the coop on their own tomorrow night.

I lifted the box off the broody hen, to check on her, and discovered:henS.  What’s going on here?!  They’re competing to sit on the eggs.  This broody hen gets no peace.  Interlopers, chicks piling in the box to sit on her…

Love what you’ve done with the place…

The pigs have arranged the hay bale to their specifications, and I couldn’t have done better myself.  They packed hay into the drafty edges and made two sausage slots, which they use in two ways:Day time nap formation – tail to tail L shape.And nighttime pigs in parallel.

Note the pet rock in the first picture.  It’s been placed on top of the arranged hay.  One of these pigs likes to keep toys in the pig house.  A beet, and a turnip, has previously been the toy of choice.  I’m not going to eat this turnip, but I’ll bring it into my house. 

Pigs.

Everyone loves a good hay bale

I brought a hay bale for the pigs, now the nights are getting colder.  I’m confident that they’ll make their own bed out of it.  They were quite excited with the novelty, and as usual What are you doing in our house?Pancakes getting high centered on the bale was especially funny.

Oh, there, she’s off.

On the way to Pigland…

I thought I’d get a quick pic of the barrow and bale, fall leaves everywhere, maybe it might turn out the way it actually looked, but there was a sudden ambush:

Action shot

Longnecking- What’s it like up there?
Let’s all try it!

The chickens, as usual, are all up in your business, no matter what it is.

 

HW busted three of them in the house!  Which I really wish I’d seen.  The screen door was snapped ajar, and two chickens were (reportedly), inside rummaging in the pile of beans I have out on newspaper on the floor drying, the third was posted lookout in the bootka.  Oh shit, there he is!  Quick, grab all the beans you can!

The last blueberry, and the vibrant red the bushes turn.

Epic pig move

We moved the pigs a fair distance, from where they were recovering the field from the alder and buckthorn, to beside the greenhouse.  They must till up the ground where I’m about to move the greenhouse to.  It involved setting up the fence a couple of times in long corridors.  The pigs were cooperative.Now they’re back in the sun, and practically  on lawn, which they are making short work of.  It’s kind of strange to have them (back) in the middle of everything, smack between the chicken tribes.

—-

Something has been snatching guineas.  A couple of adults are missing, and now there’s only one chick:(But gosh, it’s cute. A pile of bumps in the food dish: The guineas are not exactly “mine”; they’re very much their own, unlike the other obedient farm animals.  They don’t mind eating the food, but they are cunning and very hard to trick or contain, even for their protection.  They’ve been sleeping in the trees, and I’m racking my brain for how I can get them into someplace safe.  I don’t even know what’s getting them.  Nor do I have “someplace safe” in mind.  I’ll get them all into the greenhouse for the winter, but it’s another week+ before that’s ready.  What to do?

I love the outrageous purple of scarlet runner beans.  It’s like the fake colouring of grape candy.  And they are preposterously large beans, too – the plant, the pods, and the beans.  Jack and the beanstalk beans.

A very nice nest

HW was brushing alders, and discovered an impressive nest.  He broke off the branch to show me, and demonstrate the features of the nest:

The nest builder used a combination of twigs, thick grass, and plastic threads from a feed sack,then moved down to finer grass for the inside bowl, and lined it with pine needles. From the back of the nest, you can see how the builder brought in short twigs and stacked, layered and crossed them, securing them with weaving, in the crotch of the host tree, almost exactly like we would go about building a treehouse platform in the fork of a tree.The ends of the “foundation” twigs are all sticking out the back. You can see how it was made to support this whole area. Birds are marvels.  It is a very nice nest.

Melons and hens

I got a few watermelons this year, that was exciting.  Yellow flesh and pink flesh melons. Watermelons before:

And after:And a little later:The chickens love their melons.

Speaking of melons – a bucket of cucamelons.  Weird little things, supposed gourmet items, exTREMEly productive. They are starting to fall off in the GH, raining like hail.  To the pigs, as usual.

A rubber egg, almost perfectly intact.That won’t last long

What?

The hens are enthusiastically emptying out the bucket of greens.  Chard and green cabbage yes, celery and red cabbage, no thanks. They have to reach down a bit farther. 

tiptoes

This little beast, the Deputy, lower right, thinks he’s the big king now.Look at all those ladies he’s managing.  This is the second in command Silkie rooster, who has recently decided to organize the house hens – the layer hens who hang around our house, mooching and sunning in the paths.  Now he thinks he’s a big boss.  Some of them even let him mate them, which is truly awkward.  He’s so small, sometimes he tips over and falls off of them.  If hens could roll their eyes.

The Colonel concerns himself with his own breed, and the young Ameracuana roos that are coming up haven’t come into their oats yet and are still meek.

 

Hot pig slops, yum!

These pigs are going to be spoiled (well, in a way-they’ll be sleeping outside), but they’re going to get hot meals.  Cooked potatoes kept warm on the woodstove all night with hard feed, or some hot water and milk over meal.

After all, who wants to dig into a cold bowl of cereal on a sub-zero morning?  Not me.

This is the best time to have a pig, there’s so much food.  Potatoes and squash and apples and greens, loads of waste veggies.  Between the pigs and the birds, nothing gets wasted.  The pigs get the chicken food fines, the chickens pre-graze the pig lunches:

The pig lunch buckets get lined up a few days ahead. I pick up a wheelbarrow load of apples at a time, and the garden greens day before usually, so the chickens get first crack at the buffet.  They don’t hold back.  Sometimes they’re in a mood and clean up on the kale, sometimes not.  They also choose a few apples and pull them out of the bucket to eat. 

And a little of that too…
Or leave them in the bucket
Note chicken behind the pumpkin

Nuts and more nuts

We’re real birds!  The Blondies in a rare moment of repose:It’s funny; all the birds that grew up here, and then some,  are into perching.  They love the tangled alder brush. There’s the baby guineas.  Nice to get a sighting.  All mixed up in the flock of young adults.Time to groom like everyone else! Surprise!  The second, smaller walnut tree is bearing.  They come later, and they are a different kind of walnut.  This kind is nice.  The husks are round and super easy to shuck off the shell (on the right), and the nut is round, exactly like ye old familiar walnut.On the left, the pear shaped walnuts (from the big tree) have flat, pointy shells, and stubborn husks.I’m starting to get a respectable haul, for the first walnut harvest ever.  Nice.

Tarzan chicks

Three feet off the ground!  A hen-pecked tomato three feet off the ground in the greenhouse.   Couldn’t have anything to do with this little clown:

He/she appears to be the resident vine climbing expert.

I have plenty of tomatoes to spare for them to supplement their diets with.  And they don’t need to reach so high to get them, either.

 

Happy Thanksgiving yesterday!

Windy night

The fall colours are out in variety and force, and as always seems to happen, the colour change is followed by strong sustained winds to knock off all the leaves, and make “fall” not a figure of speech.  It’s no hurricane or anything but it’s a gusty evening.

The hens are behaving strangely, procrastinating about going in the coop.

And the guineas are electing to pile up on their skycoop rather than sit on the peak of the greenhouse tonight.  The two chicks are doing well.  Saw another bat too!

Guineas in the walnut tree

The guineas love perching in the walnut tree.  There was this one night when they all flew off the greenhouse, after dark ,and tried to land in the top branches of the walnut tree, and some were more successful than others, some falling all the way to the ground, bouncing off branches the whole way.  But usually, they like the long low branches over the feeder and the coop.

Guineas are so funny looking!

It starts with one. Then come some more.

Oh!  Flight!

Then a fourth, tangled in the leaves at the end.

All sorted out.

Greenhouse denizens

They grow up so fast!

The jungle chicks are romping and growing up in the greenhouse as the squashes die back and the cukes decline on the vine.  The visibility in there is a lot better these days.

It’s almost hard to tell the adult moms from the chicks, who have taken their final form, but are still miniature versions of it.  (Mom is foreground, the only adult)

Then there’s the other chicks, the Chanticleers, which are a long way off of their final size, and still about the same size as the Silkie chicks.

Apparently, they’re perchers.  They’re always standing up on something.  Funny.

This one has a sidekick on the ground, but he/she’s blurred because turning head

Halfway up the tomato vines.

Ground support is more prominent in this shot, but the whole thing is out of focus!

Feelin’ broody

In the late 80s, there was a hair styling product called Mudd.

This hen saved her money and went with the Mud with one D.  Her hair is nearly dreaded.

Well, I’ve got another broody hen.  A bit late, but that’s ok.  I’ve had November chicks before.  Two Silkie hens failed to brood this year (psst, I think they’re defective), but this is a proven mom. Tomorrow I’ll have to box her.

I wonder if this is the lady who lunches.  I suspect it is, because both moms are usually front and center in the GH come feeding time.

*Yep, it’s the one who leaves her eggs to eat.  The eggs were abandoned this morning at breakfast time, but I felt them- still hot.  Except for the risk of not getting back on the right eggs, this makes sense.  At the end of a brood, she won’t be starving and depleted.  And cranky.  Especially if she’s running her heater in the early winter.

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.

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.

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

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.

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!