Category Archives: Family + Friends + Animals

Dawn in the chicken dome

I’ve changed the dynamic in the greenhouse these days by moving the little hens out of the teenager house and into the big coop.  Every night I reach into the teenager house, gropw around and pull out the four hens and Yin and Yang, put them in the big coop and leave the roosters.

Hopefully they’ll learn to go in the big coop by themselves soon.  Then I leave the roosters locked up until last in the morning, after the hens have had priority seating at breakfast.  The boys have an entirely different attitude, now that most of the birds are already about their business when they come out.  They don’t act so important.Yin and Yang and a young white hen aren’t sure about how to get out of  the coop in the morning either.Mushroom run!  She’s got a mushroom and just wants to eat it in peace.  (The lads are still locked up in the frat house there) A few guineas on their fave hay tower.

Brown Bonnet is outside now, in the Chickery 2.0.  She already has an avid suitor.  I’ll be your baby daddy! 

At night she goes in the box with the brood, and we close the box and carry it into the house, and then back in the morning.  The chicks are still so little, I don’t want it to be too much of a strain on her to keep them warm.They’re under her here, but all you can see are a couple little feet sticking out.

Chicken spa!

Today I gave the hens a warm dirt bath, and it was the biggest event of the new year.

So if your page takes a while to load, it’s because there’s 30 pictures, but they’re funny!I had the metal fridge drawer, aka dirt bathtub, on the woodstove for a few days, yes, full of mud.  The dirt wasn’t completely dried out to dust, but it was warm.  Dirt holds heat well.I delivered it, turned around to minister to some other chickens, and turned around to see the first hen standing in the earth with a look coming over her face.  Neck disappearing, head sinking, eyes closing, and then lowering herself into the dirt.

I’m so getting in there.

It was jean jacket, actually, first in, with the hot bath expression coming over her face.

Comin’ in there!

Then it was a riot of interest, with all the hens cycling by, test pecking, and trying to take a turn. A faint mist of steam rose from the dirt bath, and the hens – it was like they were melting, eyes closed, faces down in the pan.  Flopping around and self- agitating like a washing machine drum. Jean jacket is still in there, fiercely protecting her end of the tub.

Cream Puff on the left is determined to get in there

And she’s in! This tub holds four!

 

Oh yeah. There’s the hot bath face.

Later on, I saw a Brahma in there alone, so presumably Jean Jacket eventually had her toes wrinkle up, or something, and got out so more birds could get a turn.

So bath day was a huge hit.

They can, and do, dig divots in the floor anytime and writhe around in them, but I guess the warm and drier earth was especially exciting.

Bad chicken pick up lines

Jack, the former Oreo, is not popular with the ladies.  I was hopeful he’d be the next boss rooster, but he’s not turning out well.  First he mounted the hens backwards (cue hen eye-rolling).  Once he figured  out his directions, the hens indulged him for a while.  I hoped the daily rampage around the greenhouse first thing in the morning was a hormonal phase he’d grow out of.

Well, that’s over.  Most of the hens have cut him off.  I think this is hilarious.  Since it’s all done with body language, it’s strongly reminiscent of the pick-up scene in a bar.

The Brahmas are having none of him.  They meet his aggression with a solid un-intimidated square off.    Think again, punk!!!

Think you’re hot stuff?  I got a neck ruff too.  I can take you.  Peck me again, I dare ya!

They’re a tough audience.  How you doin!? 

I knew you when you were an egg.  Keep it moving.

Then he usually tries some conciliatory dancing. Dancing before mating is a desirable behaviour of roosters.  It signals to the hen his intentions and gives them time to decide, and respond.  It’s not a very impressive performance, objectively.  It entails fanning one wing, sort of dragging it and doing a quick pattering sidestep around or toward the intended.

Hey baby, I just think you’re hot, ya know, we got off on the wrong foot there, can we start over? 

And boy do they respond:

Too little too late, buckaroo.  Take your sweet moves elsewhere, you’re getting the laser glare!

(These are actually different hens, which makes it even funnier).  Now cowed, he’s going for the meek approach, the sidestep.  Hey Sugar.  You know I used to be really something. I was even twice voted Cock of the Walk, eh, eh?

Do I look impressed?  This is my impressed face.

Hey, if you’re not busy later, I thought maybe you and me could….

Talk to the beak.

….ok, ok, I get the picture, I’ll just…go get some corn.

The Brahmas just stare him down, hold their ground, flare ruffs or peck back, if it comes to that.  He never wins a glare down.

With the smaller, springier and quicker layer hens, I don’t get to capture the action, but it’s no less funny.  They jump in the air at him, stretch their necks tall and flash neck ruffs like lizards, and the rage just shoots from their eyes.  How DARE you!

Sometimes he’ll use his weight and sneak attack a layer hen, jumping on her while she’s busy eating, and then (hell hath no fury), she’ll bounce up and peck him, and squawk! and then chase HIM around the room shrieking in a froth of indignation.  Hilarious!  Like He just grabbed my butt!  Did you see that!?  The nerve!  And don’t show your comb here again, creep!

They also get increasingly irritated, like women who start with a polite no thanks, and it quickly escalates to F off and die, a-hole!  when the guy can’t take a hint and keeps following them around, grabbing.  The rooster’s lurking around Maybe now she’ll be in the mood, I’ll surprise her on the other side of this hay bale… and the hen is all You again?  Not if you were the last rooster in the coop, jerk!

Unwanted mating rarely goes unretaliated.  Either the hen delivers furious payback, or the deputy (Silkie roo) will come in, flying dropkick style, to hit the offending rooster, and knock him off, and then he does the chasing.

The Colonel and the Deputy are still the wingmen for the entire layer hen flock, although the Colonel only mates his own.  The deputy mounts the red hens, which is a bit weird, considering the size differential.  The Brahmas recognize no male authority, and the other young hens are still deciding and/or developing their self-esteem.  Sometimes they refuse applicants, sometimes not.

House chicks II

These chicks need to go outside.

They’re getting loud, louder every day, and quite active.  Less time sleeping under mom.Mom has been giving them vigorous demonstrations of scratching, and has dug right through to the bottom of the box, shredding her newspaper layers.  Not satisfied with the clod of dirt I gave her for grit and entertainment, she’s been trying to dig down to the ground.  Made a real mess of her box.  She’ll be ready to be back among her own kind. She’s in her box within a box.

They should be out of the woods and the coldest days are over for now; there’s been no more pasted butt, but I do have to build her a new chickery.Mom gets frustrated with one chick, who wants to always peck food only off of mama’s beak.  She pecks more furiously in the dish No peck here!, but the chick doesn’t get it.  It’s funny, her worrying she’s got a slow learner on her hands.  It’s the youngest chick, two days behind.

Mama has been refurbishing her hairdo, and the new feathers, sticking out tufts, are funny.

It’s certainly been fun having them in the house, though, listening to the conversations and their development.

 

The wild bird droves

Every day, I barely shut the door behind me after flinging out bird seed for the songbirds, and the hordes have descended.  Where were they waiting?There’s a big crowd now every day.  Goldfinches, Eastern Grosbeaks, Purple Finches, Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, and Juncos. Chickadees of course.Juncos. Then I’ll glance out and the scene is deserted.  Look closer- there’s three bluejays.  They know how to clear a room.

Even though it seems like a lot of birds, I’m acutely aware of how the numbers of song birds are reduced, in my direct observation, in the last thirty years.  All of them now seem to be lingering survivors.

House chicks!

There’s a cheeping box in the house!  It’s a big box, big enough to have an inner box cave, where the chicks like to hang out in the dark all day.Three little chicks:)

Freshly washed

This one is Brownie, HW’s favorite, who was hatched first, with a little help.  This is the most vigorous and  adventurous chick, but oddly, it’s been getting pasted butt.  I’ve never known a hen-raised chick to get pasted butt.  I thought the mother hen was proof against it somehow.   While I was gone HW was washing chick butts (he really likes this chick), and today I had the pleasure. It’s a lifesaving necessity for pasted butt.

It takes a while to gently soak and wash, and mama freaked out a bit at the absence of her first-hatched.  She jumped up on the side of the box, then thought better of the mission and hopped back down in.Lowering Brownie back in.

She’s got a chick growing out of her cheek!

Chick warming

I would like a warming and to eat, please

 

Back at home

I’m home!

Whoa, this guy has grown up!  I didn’t recognize him for a beat.  When I left he was a teenager.These two think well of themselves.  No self-esteem issues here.

The Brahmas persist in using the roof of the chickery as a hangout spot, and they’ve had some friends join them. (Snow White and the dwarves were reinstalled in protective confinement in my absence- they sleep in the covered wagon now inside the chickery)Another rooster doing his best guinea impression.  Very few chickens are interested in perching so high (6′).The inseparables, Yin and Yang, who seems like only yesterday got their pants, but now look like complete chickens, only miniature.  They’re almost always right side by side.  And they like to sit up on a hay bale.

The great escape

When the chickens still had the use of their yards, before winter set in proper, there would be escapes.

Then the other chickens would stand at the fence.  HEY!  How’d SHE get out there?  She’s got all the grass! Once I was working on the deck and a chicken came strolling by.  Once HW hollered up “Hey, there’s a chicken out here!” Prancing by the house.

So serene. The Colonel has both eyes on her though.

Chickens like eating ice.

They’re so pleased with themselves when they’re out by themselves (Excuse me, I’m free-range I’m ranging!), it’s a shame to chase them back in, but necessary.  They’re confined for their protection in the shoulder season.  Hawks and owls are hard at work.

The grass is always greener. The grass gets evenly trimmed exactly six inches on the outside of the fence.

Chickens in trees

Now the snow and ice has socked the birds into the greenhouse, but in the salad days of the shoulder season when they were confined but had a yard, there were adventures.They really loved the pine tree. The Silkies loved the pine tree. And this one loved the pine tree.  She was always going a branch higher, or creeping out along the branch.And got really clever about walking along the branch out of the needles of the pine tree, to a viewpoint.I came out and found this, I’m like “What are you doing out there!?”

Oh, am I in trouble? When I made noises and gestures at her she demonstrated her side stepping skills and scuttled back down the branch to the trunk.  I was just here all along!  She’s going to grow up to be an interesting hen.  She’s clever, and not a joiner.

That explained the mystery of how hens were sometimes escaping from their yard, though.  They were getting out where the mesh didn’t enclose the tree.

They grow up so fast

Everyone is growing up in the greenhouse.  The Chanticleer (and young Silkie) roosters are coming into their oats, so they’re always showing each other their neck ruffs, sorting out their hierarchy.

“Did someone say neck ruff?  I have one I can show you!”    White Chanti roo- still not fully grown! How big will he get?
Snow White. She’s got chicks under her. I can tell by the expression.

The Colonel is in retirement, especially since the rooster formerly known as an Oreo has become huge and dominant. He may not be invited to stay.  I was hoping being aggressive was a stage he would grow through, as he seemed to be cooling enough a bit, but not enough.  We can’t keep any jerks around, if they endanger the health of the flock at large.

Open the coop for a minute…

The guinea keet (keet in a bowl) is ungrateful and aloof and has forgotten all about being saved, and is also about to transition from brown stripes to black polkadots, which is always a sort of magical transformation.  Why are they brown from hatching to mid-size? Camouflage?  Does the arrival of their black feathers mean they are adult in the ways that matter while still not fully developed?

So it begins

When the sun shines, even if it’s minus tens outside, it’s very comfortable in the GH, and the birds lounge around sunning, like it’s summer.  They like to lean on the hay bales, so there are lots of hay bale nooks for them.

Cheeks

 

 

Take a look at her now!

The chicken formerly known as Jean Jacket has fully refeathered, and come out of her winter coat.

Now
Before, in her fleece jacket (looking quite wretched)

It’s nice to see they can come back so completely and rapidly.  It seemed like only two weeks to full fletching.  Now she looks like a perfectly normal chicken again.  Good, in fact, with a fresh “pelt”.

Stop following me around!

I’m a cozy chick!

The two white chicks are alive and well.  Recently released from the chickery:Major Fowler has been dying for her incarceration to end, paying tribute and bowing from the wrong side of the mesh.

They reintegrated very well, Snow White immediately bringing her chicks up into the coop, which she seemed very happy to return to.   I’m ready to be in my own bed, and warm for a change!  Only two days of chick ramp shenanigans before they were following mom in on their own.  They’re never sorry to be picked up and tucked in a coat.This one was snatched up for a photo shoot and contented to be pocketed for a warming.  They always have surprisingly cold feet. I’ve got wings!!

Broody kennel

I have a broody hen (she’s lost her marbles, didn’t get the winter memo), so I built her a new special broody box for her own comfort and safety, out of hardware cloth, with a plywood base.  A lobster trap meets a mailbox:First I put in a piece of foil, to reflect her heat on her eggs.Then cardboard.Then a “nest” of hay. A clutch of eggs (her eggs-I actually did the transfer very quickly from where she was setting in the main coop)A wall of hay bales around her, liberal hay underneath her box, and canvas for drafts and darkness (now it’s a covered wagon). There she is, settling in, front “mailbox” door shut.  The first thing she did was throw a tantrum and knock over her dishes, but then she saw her eggs and simmered down.Naturally I had the usual helpers, doing anything in the GH:

Is that…Aluminum foil?

What, is it arts and crafts time?!

All done and closed up.  Completely safe from any ground predators, just like the birds that get shut in their coops at night.

Now she gets breakfast in bed, in her prairie schooner.  I plan to make a series of reusable kennels, for the broody hens next year.  The cardboard box has many limitations.  This is the right size for the first few days after hatching, when the chicks start to eat, but don’t go very far, and then they will go into the chickery after that.Snow White and her two white chicks lounging in front of the broody kennel installation on a warm day.

Inevitable, perhaps.

The temperature dropped over the holidays to “very cold!”, and I brought her and her mailbox into the house.  She lives in the mud room now.  I candled her eggs and they seem to be alive.

If she’s so determined to sit on eggs in the winter, well, we’ll try and give her a shot at success.

We’re gonna have house chicks!

Real snow, and one lucky keet

Last evening was windy, and the guineas were twitchy, and several of them escaped.  They flew up into the mesh and scrambled against it to find a gap and then got out.  I was watching them, and I didn’t think they could get out, right up until they did.  Then it was a long round of persuading them back into the area of the opening in the fence (they wanted to go back in), until they darted back in one by one.

The only keet is now at that stage where they think they’re all grown up and are paling around with the big birds, but they are still little.  So the keet was out with the other escapees, but instead of staying with them, it ran straight into the big brush pile, waited for the coast to clear (of us), and then peeped a little, calling out for the others, and then sprinted back out to rejoin them.

After a long patient wait, finally all the birds were back enclosed.  Until an hour later, just before dark, when I went in the yard to close the greenhouse door, disturbed them, and three guineas escaped again!  And the keet.  Good grief.

This time I propped the fence open, waited until I saw the keet make its run out of the brush pile to reunite with the others, and they were all milling around by the open gate.  I left them to it, confident they were fine.

After dark  I closed all the coops, and all the guineas were back in the greenhouse.  No keet.  You’re kidding me.  I rarely do see the keet at night, it tucks itself away somewhere, so I told myself it may be in there but it’s hiding.  Worst case scenario  it didn’t find its way back in, it’s in the brush pile, but it will most likely be able to survive the night, since it’s got a full suit of feathers now.

The night started with hard blowing snow pellets and froze, with our first lasting accumulation of snow.

This morning I open up and feed the hens (the guineas are always already up and about), and there’s no keet.  I look around the edges of the brush pile but see nothing.  I hear nothing.

I’m sick about it.

I carry on taking care of the chickens, back and forth, and then I see what I’ve been hoping to – little bird prints walking out of the brush pile.  I almost miss the little brown bird huddled, still, in one of my footprints.

It was on its way, struggling back to the greenhouse, but it did survive the night!

I shoved it in my shirt, hastened back to the house and transferred the patient to under HW’s shirt, and went back to work.

I came back in to find the chick bedded in a bowl, clearly labeled:)

They have eyelashes!

Sleepy and not out of the woods, but will likely be fine.I put a towel over her later in case she got ideas about hopping out. And HW uncovered her later to peek.  A transformation!  Up pops the head.  Yes, I am feeling better. Oh, maybe I still am a little sleepy.

Fowl life in the Greenhouse

The Silkie chicks are in their semi-independent stage (now they have pants).  They aren’t always with Mom, but they are always together.  The Chanticleer teenagers are now very large, still growing every day, and coming into their gender.  White one on the left is the fastest developing roo, and he is refining his crow.   So far he sounds like Frankenstein laughing with marbles in his mouth.  The guineas on the header. And experimenting with their special sticks (they do roost on their sticks most nights.   The Silkie pre-teens sunbathing. The hens are enjoying their designated dust bath.  Note the approaching teenager – Oh, I might get in here… getting rebuffed- Snarl!  No you won’t!  That hen wants it all to herself.She’ll share it with a guinea hen though. It’s so cute when they share. There’s the keet right by the door and plywood, up on the hay bale. Usually all the Brahmas stand on top of the chickery, most of the day.

 

Haybale sunbathe! On the ground sunbathe…What’s in the bucket?There’s the chicks.  Alas, the brown one was lost.  Two healthy white chicks. The Oreo hen chilling under the coop.Guineas chilling behind her. There’s fleece jacket, feathering up magnificently.  She never goes outside, preferring to stay warm.  Her fleece jacket must agree with her.  But the black really shows the dirt!

cob oven mouse

Right outside our door, we have a stacked rock structure (future cob oven) wrapped up with tar paper (it’s not a good look).  But for one tiny mouse, it’s a dream home.He must be traveling on the ledges of rock inside, all dry and safe behind the tar paper, and he pops out from under the skirt of paper to hang out on his porch… have a look around…

Testing the limits of my camera, 5´away. Nice.

go for a forage, within 4″ of the door…

I sat and watched for awhile, and he/she has three doors!  He pops in and out like an electron, then boop!  Pops out one of the other doors.    Happy little mouse.   Not in our house!

Door number 2

New pig procedure

It didn’t take long for us to figure out a better way to use two lengths of electric poultry fence.  Making a vast circle of space with both lengths is not it.   That merely makes it approximately twice as hard to move them as it was with one length of fence.

The answer (blindingly obvious), is to set up the fences in two circles, like the digit 8, so that when it comes time to shift the pigs, close them into one loop of fence, pick up the other loop and peacefully relocate it.  Then, or later, move the pigs into the newly placed loop and move the second section of fence.  Drama free.

The added benefit is easily being able to separate the piglets for dinner time.  Did someone say dinner?  Oggg, oggg,ogggh!

First HW LEAPS into the pig yard.
Fence open, how it is during day.

(First there must be scratching)Now HW is closing the gate. Pick a side, Pancakes!  They do pick a side, and sometimes switch; they know the drill.  Shortstack is smarter.  It’s raining, I’ll take the house side.

Securing the gate.
Turning the fence back on. This is a very thorough step by step…

Then the pigs wait VERY impatiently for the food to be prepared, and served.  Whheeeee, Whheeeee!

One pig is inevitably briefly disgruntled.
She’s got hers!
There you go!

They’ve had they’re own bowls their whole sojourns here, and they used to get fed on opposite ends of the yard, but still, the first pig finished wolfing down their food goes to see if the other has any left, so thievery happens, and Shortstack has been at the losing end of that contest.  This is far better.

Now Shortstack is even more pleased about dinner (hardly possible) because she gets to relax through her whole meal.  I think she’s just a slower eater.  Likes to savour.

All well

Let’s shake the hen and see who falls out?Phew!  There’s two!  The crushed egg chick made it, and is totally fine.  It doesn’t always turn out that way.

There’s three.  The youngest is a brown one.  So tiny.  It’s inside the box, cheeping.  Hey, it just got cold! Mom responsibly goes back in her box to sit on it. And the other two chicks find their way in.

Later we got rid of the box.  That’s too cramped for her to be going in and out of.

 

no-kill windows

I tried something new to protect the birds from the windows.  I used to have gift wrap ribbon dangling and fluttering – it works well, but not 100%.  One or two birds still struck the windows every year, and that’s a sickening thump I could live with never hearing again.

So I raised my game.   I stretched black nylon bird netting over our windows, on little posts to hold it away from the surface.  I think there’s enough tension on it that even if a bird flies full speed and direct into the window, its momentum will be absorbed before it hits the glass, enough to save it from injury.

More likely the birds will see it readily and the spring rebound will not be tested.

I’m waiting for the chickadees to come stand on my posts to eat their seeds.It’s not a Better Homes and Gardens look.  Not many things are around here.  HW was not impressed.  “What if I did something like that?  Stuck pieces of wood and baling twine all over the house?  I’d be in so much trouble!”  I disagree.

From the inside, it looks like security glass.  The mesh is subtle, but definitely visible.  However, if it prevents wild bird death:  totally worth it.

It’s cool that I can recognize individual birds returning to the feeder now.  The Nuthatch is back, with an offspring and I strongly suspect that it is the Nuthatchling that we met in the summer!  It took me a bit, but I remembered that last year the Nuthatch had a long and steep learning curve using the feeder.  Man, she was bad at it!  But this nuthatch came in like a pro and did some demonstrations, so definitely the same little bird. Watch and learn, youngster.

Winter chicks…

The tell-tale shell!  It’s so cool how the chick unzips the egg much like we would take the lid off a hard-boiled egg.

Snow White was all about rolling her eggs out of the nest today.  She probably knows something I don’t, but I gave her reject eggs to Heather, in the duplex next door.

There’s the chick!  All of them spilling out of the box.

There was another chick as well, partially hatched, but her egg was crushed like it had been stepped on, as if being in an egg isn’t cramped enough.  The membrane was drying out, so the chick was in trouble.  The membrane that keeps them alive in the egg can kill them when they are hatching,  if it dries out.  It becomes stiff and adheres to skin and eyes.  I’ve seen a couple of chicks die during hatching because they couldn’t break that membrane or worked too slow and the membrane suffocated them.  That’s gross and sad.  But this chick, I rapidly grabbed it and peeled it, Cheep!  Cheep!, and popped it back under the dark hen belly.   It was alive but not necessarily well, so I don’t know if it will make it to tomorrow.

Tomorrow I’m looking forward to moving the broodery to a fresh spot and making it all clean for the chicks to grow up in for a week or two.  It’s pretty messy from two hens pooping for a full term.

Everyone else is well.After a year naked, Jean Jacket is sprouting a lot of feathers on her wings, which is excellent.  She must be enjoying her fleece jacketExcept the black really shows the dirt!

There’s the keet in the corner, up on the keet highway.  The keet is very active now, a big hopper and it can fly some too.

Time to groom! Everyone at once now.

 

Keet’s day out!

I was brought out mid-morning to check on the birds because the guineas were putting on an almighty hollering.

The cause?  The guinea chick was outdoors for the first time, having made that big hop up to go through the chicken doorThe guineas were all worked up about it (they’re so familial).  This is the outSIDE!  This is GRASS! (sort of).  The chick is the lone survivor of  a few hatched outdoors, so it may remember “outside”, but it seems it was a big guinea moment nonetheless. Right away the chick slipped through the fence. Here the hens are drawing attention to it- It’s over here!, and it’s barely detectable right by that fence post. Mom came running in, and the chick climbed back in just as easily.

The hen yard is already kind of grim, after freezing, being hammered by rain, and scratched up well.  The chickens loooooove that pine tree through.   They all cluster up under it for most of the day.

This is the Colonel’s flock of girls  – it’s a very large flock, and they group under the pine day all day for a long, relaxed grooming meditation, and often a good perch.  Usually there are 2-5 hens perching in the tree at any time.   I pruned it out for them hoping they’d enjoy it, so it’s very gratifying to have them enjoy it so completely.

Curiosity saved the chicken.

Chicken door!

I installed a chicken door, in the door, of the GH.  Like a dog door, only without a flap.  I kinda do have confidence that hens could learn to use a flap, but to stay on the safe side, no flap.

Is that a … chicken door?

It’s important so that the chickens can come and go without opening the big man door and letting all the heat flow out.  Chickens like to be outside, even in the snow (temporarily), but the point of having them in the GH is to keep them warmer than outdoor temperature.

The hens were very interested, right away.  They always seem curious when the tools come out.  Even though the man door was also open, right away they had to try out the new door.

I have a theory that (the aphorism about killing cats notwithstanding) curiosity is an essential survival trait.  All animals seem to have it.  Bees have it.  Just plain curiosity about novelty.  If we all have it, then our species’ ancestors that survived had it, and it must have helped them survive.  So in fact, curiosity saved the cat.  Certainly the chicken at least.

First one through!

I’m going to have to put another on the opposite end doors, but I have yet to do the deer netting on the other  hen yard.

At this time of year?

I have two broody hens.  Why.  Why now?  Anyway, a broody hen is about the stubbornest thing there is, so all I can do is give them eggs, see what they can do.  Maybe they change their minds when it gets colder.

The chickery is a duplex again, with the Oreo’s mom (white) and one of the Heathers,   each with a box, sharing the “yard” and snack bar. I covered the chickery with canvas, I was thinking to reduce light and distraction, and especially reduce the chance of birds falling in, because all the birds like to perch on the edge of the chickery.  They switch boxes multiple times a day.  They come out to eat, or poop, and then the other hen comes out, and the first one back gets on the first eggs she sees.  This used to provoke very loud outrage, but now they’ve both learned to just go find the other box, and so far they are pretty responsible.  Snow White’s a proven mama, she raised the Oreos (now gigantic and disrepectful).

Guinea roosts

I hung sticks up for the guineas’ roosting pleasure.  They’re tied off to the purlins about 7′ up, and they swing a little.  The guineas seem to love it, but they are exceedingly coy about being captured on film using it.  I can see them through the plastic up on their sticks.  I can sneak up and catch the last two still holding on, just before they fly down.  But they won’t let me see them all roosted up on it, and they aren’t using their sticks to sleep at night yet.  Still sleeping on the header of the door.

The baby guinea has a new talent.  It can hop up on the baseboard now and run along it behind the ribs. It’s a chick sized highway.

Winter jacket

Jean jacket hen gets a new fleece jacket today.  I took her jean jacket away a couple of weeks ago, in the rainy time just before they went in the greenhouse, and immediately felt sorry for her, seeing her no-necking with the three feathers on her back standing up, for insulation.  She’s having a hard time regrowing feathers.  Lots of them seem to be broken off.  She’s a low chicken, but I haven’t seen her being mated or beat up on, she’s just in hard shape.  Her feet are in bad shape, her wing feathers are sparse.  She was bad off when she got here, and it hasn’t got much better for her.

Poor thing, those raw wing tops.

Anyway, she must be as comfortable as possible, so she gets a winter jacket.

She seems mildly pleased with it

Then the looky-lous come.

What’ve YOU got?  Hey, Sylvia’s got a new outfit!!
– She does?  I gotta see!  – What, this old thing?
Be honest.  Does this jacket make me look fat?

You see, she looks like she feels pretty good about it.  She got inspected (no pecking), and just hung out on the hay bale for a bit.  Cozier now.

HW says she has to have a crest on it. Like a big C, for … Chicken!!

BTW, the chicken who sits, er, sat, has made a total recovery, stopped dragging her butt, and is now indistinguishable from all the other tail-up chickens.  Yay!

Hello! Forgetting something?

The chickadees returned a few days ago.  Four of them appeared.  One of them danced around in the specific place where the feeder was hung last year, and then stared firmly through the window at us before a big swoop in front of the glass and departure.  It couldn’t have been a clearer message without throat clearing.  Excuse me!  Time for the feeder!

It’s kind of amazing, they understand that the food has to do with us, in the window.  That’s a big cognitive leap for a brain the size of a pea, that’s already full of nest engineering, seed extraction techniques, vocalizing, and maps.

I obeyed, and hung the feeder, full of the seeds I grew, but they didn’t come back.  They’d probably gone directly to the next stop, where someone was more prompt about putting out the winter seeds.

Until today!  A squad of chickadees at least 8 deep (they’re hard to count), arrived all at once.  I didn’t know that chickadees were so “flocky” either.  I thought they were more independent.

They’re back!!

It’s nice to see a chickadee that was around all last winter, still alive and returned.   Maybe with some offspring, teaching them where the winter hunting grounds are. We don’t see very much of them through the summer.