Category Archives: Chickens

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.

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!

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.

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.

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

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!

Goodbye Granny

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

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

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

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

 

Chicks in the greenhouse

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

The Chanticleers

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

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

All. Day. Long.

The Silkies

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

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

But boy do I hear them.

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

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

Holy eyebrows, Batpig!

Blondies made it to the house

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

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

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

The house-moochers of the future.

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

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

Two have slate legs, but one has yellow legs.

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

 

 

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

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.

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

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! 

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!