Category Archives: Chickens

Lazy rain day

It’s another rainy day so all the spoiled chickens are lazing around in the greenhouse (per usual).The Silkies continue to scorn the outdoors.  Even with an egress ramp.  Are you kidding?  Look at that mud!This little silver hen is an adventurer.  I like her.  I thought she’d be the first out the door; she’s always examining things.In the boys’ room, the little wretched roosters continue to just kind of hang out.  They are free to come and go, they just don’t.  On the first big release day, only three of them left their room, and two of them went back in and stayed.  Only one rooster is convinced he does not belong with those dudes.  He isn’t at all sure where he does belong, but he lurks around Alpha coop all day and roosts by it at night.  He’s refused to go back in the corner coop since his first time out.  I like his initiative.  I’m not with them!

rain days

We’ve had a bunch of rain.  All the paths are muddy lakes (again).  It’s very tiresome.

Nope, can’t cross without getting our feet wet.

The chickens have made it over to the house.  They are happily rummaging around in our “front yard”, outside the window.  Still sharing space with the wild birds.In this dull brown picture, there are two doves, a chipmunk, a chickadee, a blue jay, and some goldfinches.  Oh, and a chicken.  But really, I see you’re going to have to take my word for it.

chicken tight, guinea strong

It’s time for the tomato starts to go out into the greenhouse.  I didn’t actually build the greenhouse for the chickens to live in (that was just a convenient side effect). But because the chickens still  live in the greenhouse, the tomatoes must be protected from them, in an unquestionably secure way.  They are in a maximum security safe, complete with roof, because guaranteed there’ll be a guinea walking around up there.

I’ve learned the hard way to not underestimate the power of chickens to access what they want, especially green things. But in a reversal of the norm, the plants are caged, not the chickens.

A friend gave me this adjustable shelf unit that is performing spectacularly well.  120 tomato starts don’t even take up half of it, and it will be more than enough for all the starts we’ll need to transition to outdoor living.The chickery has been repurposed, again.  It will easily revert back from function as tomato safe before we hear the pitter patter of little chicken feet.

Shoulder chicken 2.0

HW called from downstairs.  “Hey.  Come look.”  I knew from the tone of his voice exactly what I would find.

“Are you poaching my chicken?” I asked.

I went down, and sure enough, HW had put Apples on his shoulder.No sooner did I arrive, then Apples pecked, right at his eye!

HW took over narration:

I’m not with him!  I don’t even like him.  I’ve been abducted.  If I want to get on a shoulder, I’ll do it myself!” and

“Did you see that?  She tried to peck my eye out!  You’d better put that in your blog!  There’s mandatory PPE required when you’re playing with chickens!” (We both agree that she hadn’t been going for his eye, or she probably would have hit it, and he wasn’t hurt.  She probably saw something on his eyelashes.)

Shoulder chicken

I was sitting on the rocking chair with my laptop on my lap, doing ‘net stuff in the morning.  HW had just left for work.  My chair was right beside Apples’ box (the house chicken).

Suddenly, she leapt up onto my knee with a big flap.  Very startling, and extremely uncharacteristic.  Wow!  Ok, you’re in the mood for a little cuddle?  I made room for her on my lap.

Shocked and delighted, of course I was nowhere near my camera, or phone.  But I did have my laptop on my lap.  I opened Siri and asked her to take a picture of me, and she obliged.  Siri has never come in handy before (“Siri, open Art folder” – “Alright, opening Google Earth”), but this time – clutch.Lap chicken!

I barely got a pic of that before she started climbing me, like a kitten (What the!?), scrabbling up, up, until she summited my shoulder.

Siri, are you getting this?Whereupon, she settled right down like A: she planned to stay awhile, and B: this was totally normal, like we do this every day. WHAT?  THE?

Sure, she’s lived in the house for a while, HW sings and talks to her (pretty often), we occasionally try to pet her (and get growled at for it), and she really came out of her shell when Lily visited.  But day after day, she spends all her time in her box or on her sheet of paper.  We have NOT made any active attempts to change her behaviour or “train” her.  Certainly not to play parrot.

She has never before shown any inclination to reach out to us.Now, she was all cuddles.

Since it seemed like she was staying, I put her on my other shoulder, got a towel in position, and put her back.This made me more comfortable.  I didn’t trust she’d also suddenly got house trained.What are you thinking?  It’s really something to look her in the eye, at about 3 inches, and she’s looking back with that little black eye.

Long neck. Longer neck.

She got real relaxed, dozing, doing a little grooming, leaning on my ear (oh, I’m on your shoulder? So what? Can’t stop grooming) .Then, she got really, really cuddly.  And she’s so soft and warm.  HW had a theory, when I called him later (“You’re not going to believe this…).  Just before he left in the morning, he’d asked me when I was going to put Apples back out in the world.  He figures she heard that, and wanted to put a stop to that line of thinking.You’re not going to let him come between us, are you?

She stayed for a very long time.  Like almost two hours.  Ultimately I got too hungry to sit any longer, and got up and started walking around, with her still there.  She didn’t seem to enjoy surfing,  though, so I set her back down, and she ate, drank, and settled in for a big nap.  She had a really big day.

Did you ever?   A CHICKEN!

Scruffle central

When the new boys got released and wandered out of their corner, they met the roosters who already lived in the greenhouse. Cue the battles You’d be forgiven for thinking that rooster fights are actually high jump contests.

Nice one.
Watch this.

Back to staring for a while… A victor is emerging. They’re both tired.  Panting.

I’ll ballet on you, fiend!
Your frilled-necked lizard impression isn’t fooling me!
I’ll WWE you, interloper!

The interloper is now having second thoughts.

Ding ding ding!  Now for the next match…

Freedom day

Everyone was set free today.  Hopefully the snow is really over this time.

Yo, we’re free range again!

The fence was dropped for the hens at large to exit.  They were happy and noisy scritching in the leaves in the woods.

Philippe Petit is not himself these days.  He’s got  a sore foot; he’s limping on the right.  I couldn’t find any thorns (my first guess), or anything wrong with it, so I hope he recovers soon.  He can’t keep track of all these girls if he’s lame.  I expected to see the whole flock passing by the house, but instead, they were all back in the greenhouse in an hour, and only a couple wandered by to forage under the bird feeder in the afternoon.The Silkies got outdoor access today too.  I moved their fence inside so they could have a door and a whole yard to themselves, now the layers have the rest of the world.  Guess what.  They didn’t use their freedom.  That’s odd, for the Colonel.And the sequestered new roosters got their veil lifted too.

The sooner I can take down this so-attractive enclosure, the better.

They immediately got infiltrated by some nosy hens.

You fellas been bogarting anything good in here?

The roos just stared, and trickled slowly out of their corner into the greenhouse at large. I figured with the outdoors available and the greenhouse mostly emptied out, it was a good time for the roosters to integrate.  By that I mean fight until they have  an understanding.  Lots of space to do it though.  HW said “Uhoh.  It’s going to be Scruffle Central in there!”  It was.  But that’s another story, and no one was bloodied.


Heard peepers tonight!

Apples is feeling very relaxed.  It’s funny when she stretches out for a suntan, but even better when she cuddles with a snack.She’s got a scrap of meat in the box with her.  In case she gets hungry from all that stretching. Now the wing’s stretched out. Now for some wriggling around. And reclining on the other side, nearly upside down really.  She’s soooo happy and content.   Eyes closed.   What a funny little bird.  Perfectly happy to stretch out and nap in a box.

Mensa hen

Now THIS is a highly intelligent chicken!  I had a couple beef fat scraps in the top of the lunchtime food bucket.  I saw her snatch one and vanish.  Then I saw her here, squirmed into the chickery cage, where she was completely safe from the other hens trying to grab it from her.  Very clever.  Enjoying her meat scrap in peace.   Before.

I gave them a “fresh” (months in climate controlled container ship  transit and on the shelf, before being marked down, I’m sure) coconut chopped open.  It had fermented.After.

Today I greased all the wretched new chickens’ feet.  Their feet are horrible, mite infected to point of deformity.  It will take some rehab.  The hens aren’t so bad.  I subsequently moved all the treated hens over to Silkieland hen sanctuary, from new chicken quarantine corner.  I left the roos.  I was in there with them for quite awhile for foot treatment, and all they want to do is fight.  They can’t be dissuaded from it by casual separation.  Fight fight fight.  I was about to release them into gen pop, but thought I’d wait on that after all.  Give Philippe a couple days to establish his total dominance before the Silkies mix it up.  He looks sad.  I think partly the white just shows the blood better.  He’s on the big side and didn’t look like he was losing.The hens also spent some time fighting.  Their funny little jump in the air fighting – it’s not so scary.  They have to work out their order.  But the new girls were acting normal all day, snacking and lounging and dozing instead of just hiding, so that’s an improvement for them.  

Snow?

We have snow on the ground.  The guineas are utterly scandalized that going outside is not enjoyable.  They were just getting into it.The goldfinches have changed colours as though it was as easy as swapping out their winter jackets for a windbreaker, and not like it involves growing a new set of feathers.  Overnight, they’re suddenly bright yellow. Too cute.  Sitting chicken sleeping standing up, face tucked in.  Swaying.  The flash didn’t wake her.

And this:this is the amphibious chicken.  She can’t drink out of the water without standing in it.  I’m sure it’s great for the health of her feet, but nobody else’s health.  She’s causing me to cart a lot more water.

That is unsanitary!She doesn’t care.

Goodbye Toffee…Toffee is off to a new home tonight!  Very exciting.  He’s going to have 14 of his own ladies.  He’ll be standing real tall tomorrow:)  I’m glad.  I would have kept both him and Philippe Petit because they show all signs of being quality roosters, but both he and Philippe will both be happier without the other brother around.  They’ll both be feeling like they won the lottery, went to chicken heaven, waking up with a whole flock to themselves.  I wonder if Toffee will miss his first girls.  I think he’ll be amply consoled though.

The first ray of sun

The first ray of sun through the chicken door intrigues the chickens.  Do we want to go out?  Is it cold?  Is it muddy?  Is it windy? Well, it’s sunny.

In New Silkie land, there are telltale signs of the dirt bath seeing use – dirt sprayed around.  This is promising.  They are becoming real chickens.  A few hens use the space beneath the coop (as I knew they would), for sanctuary, and are reprogramming in peace.  Chicken meditation.

Sitting chicken is still with us and coming out of the coop at least part of the day.

These guys know what to do with a dirt bath:Look how clean they are.

Yeah we do.

 

At night now (it’s so cute), I take their fence down, and all the “old” Silkies trot out in a line and file up the coop ramp.  Even the covered wagon empties out.  While I go close the other three coops, all of them make their way to bed by themselves.  The Colonel has them all trained.  It’s adorable.

 

Apples makes a friend

We had a visitor stop in to see my chickens, and Apples got some special attention.

We haven’t been in the habit of cuddling Apples lately, since she started to object to being picked up.  I’m a chicken, not a purse dog!

But today, she turned on all the charm, and was perfectly thrilled to perch on a lap and be pet.

She started to nod off with all the stroking, falling asleep.

I am not falling asleep!

She hung out on Lily’s lap for a good half hour while we talked, perfectly content and comfortable.

She’s a good chicken ambassador (Apples, that is).

Who wouldn’t be enchanted by a soft, cuddly chicken?

Happy Harvest farm and chicken petting zoo.  Now open.

It’s working

Lily doing her best chicken whispering.

 

 

 

Lily doesn’t have her own chickens (yet), but says “you might have to call me a chicken lady now”.

Yes, you should keep chickens.

Somebody needs a bath

The new chickens smell.

I’ve never thought about chickens smelling before (I don’t think they have a strong smell if there’s lots of carbon to neutralize the nitrogen of their shit), but the new chickens brought this sick, tangy smell here with them.  I don’t understand it.

Hopefully, a bath will clear up the problem.This should be good:  chickens’ first bath.

Except, they didn’t use it all afternoon .  It looks like no one even walked through it.  I’m hoping that they’ll figure it out themselves, because bathing lessons could get awkward.

Maybe they have to see another chicken bathing  to understand.  That can be arranged.  Puffcheeks spends all day in the tub.

The roosters have been amusing themselves with fighting through the fence.  There are no winners.  Only the fence loses.

——

It poured cats and dogs last night with a thunderstorm, and I happened to be outside with a light just in time to see a little frog climb up on the rim of a rain bucket and get comfortable.  Cute.

chicken house immigrants

When I was driving to go get the new Silkies, I was thinking many things along the lines of “What am I doing?” But then I got there and it was not a good situation for chickens, so it all made sense, and I took all the birds I could away, glad I could liberate some.

The next morning, I opened the ramp on the new flock to the first real dirt and sunlight, and more space than they’d ever had, and…nothing.  No one budged.This pretty little Silver hen was set to be first out, probably just  because she slept by  the door.When I opened up, she immediately started doing owl impressions, swiveling her head around to look at everything.She was especially interested in looking up.  She’s never seen so much up.   Perhaps they’ve never seen sunlight. She was taking her sweet time about assessment, so I left her to it and did something else.

20 minutes later:Oh!  She’s dipping a toe in! A whole foot!Two feet! And a roo peeking out behind. This whole procedure to get to this point took another twenty minutes (she’s going to have a sore neck), so I left her to inch down the ramp on her own.  No one was exactly pushing past her to be the first.An hour later. Finally, landed! The brahmas spectating at the viewing window.

Another hour later:Half the birds are still in the box, but the ones out have polished off their food, knocked over the waterer, and are SO into scratching.  I’ve never seen scratching with such enthusiastic abandon. I expected some wild, weird, bad behaviour from the crazed refugee chickens, but they seem pretty… normal.  Sweet, mild.  Peripherally vision challenged.  Harriet Potter has found her happy place.The roosters sizing each other up.  That’s exactly what the viewing window is for.  Controlled contact.

Construction always draws a crowd

I’m getting some more chickens (because I really need more chickens).  What I really need is genetic diversity in the Silkie flock, so I was going to get eggs to hatch, but when I looked for eggs, I found someone liquidating a flock of young Silkies, so I chose that.  It will be a lot faster.

Planning to keep them separate upon import for them to adjust, I had to knock together a coop.  I converted the newer chickery by putting a base and lid on it, and cutting a door and adding a hinged ramp.

I’m going to make all future ramps like this, too, with a door in the wall that folds down to ramp.  My first coops have hinged ramps in the floor, and while that does keep it dark and dry in there, it’s a waste of some floor space, and harder to build!Anyway, the chickery-now-coop is high-security, and it’s wrapped in canvas for light.  It’s a wall tent.  This is not an outdoor-worthy coop, and I can easily convert it back to chickery. I moved it in and installed it in the corner, and all the birds had a sudden realization that they’d never fully appreciated how interesting that corner of the greenhouse was. Fascinating!

Super aesthetic- some of my finest work yet

After the interest finally waned, I walled off the corner and coop with some canvas and snow fence, so there’s one “viewing window” where the new birds can look at each other but will be mostly undistracted by the neighbours.

Night missions to go get them…

mud season

So muddy.  All the trails are soup, and more rain on the way.Inside the coop, sick chicken has a friend.   They were snuggling in the morning as the coop emptied out.  Sick chicken is doing pretty well for herself now.And the covered wagon was excessively popular today.

Sunny days are here again

Yesterday the rain washed away most of the snow, and today I put the fence back up on the chicken yards, and the chickens got to come outside again, whoohoo!Look at the little jailbirds, staring at the outside world.Then they all came pouring out. Mud puddle!The world is messy and so muddy, and quite gross.  But the sun is shining, and the chicken boredom is over as soon as the doors open. And very soon, there will be no fences either and they will be free-range again.The girls were out  most of February because it was so warm, but then March came in like a lion and held a snowpack (and knocked down my hen yard fence with the wind).

Perhaps, this is the final melt.  Garden time!

Also, the posturally challenged chicken was out of the coop, looking far better, and right in the trough with the others.  Like, not using her wings to walk around, like a bat.  Just still very low in the stern.

Happy Easter.  No jokes today, I’m not that creative.

Silkie status

The Silkies are dirty today.  Yesterday I went through the whole flock and vaselined everyone’s feet (setting off a rash of feather adjustment).  Then the Colonel climbed on everyone he could, greasing up their other feathers with his feet, and it was a hot, dust bathing afternoon, so now all the white Silkies are looking very grimy.Brown Bonnet is going broody.  She threw a giant fit at being removed from the covered wagon at nighttime last night, and after a kamikaze plunge through the fence, got her way.  She is also huge.  She’s twice the size of most of the other Silkies, almost as heavy as the Colonel, or a normal layer hen.  Every time I lift them in or out of the coop, there’s Brown Bonnet, and a whoa! moment.  Big blimp.  She’ll be able to cover a lot of eggs.

Inside, Apples the house chicken continues to be no trouble at all, happy to stay in her box or on her sheet-of-newspaper “yard”, even though nothing is actually keeping her from rampaging all over the house.  She hasn’t taken that into her head, luckily (she only jumps out a couple times a week, and HW announces “there’s an exploratory chicken down here!”).  She’s also growing, maybe twice the size as she first came in.  She quickly got over being cuddling or held, protesting at even being pet (which is hard to resist trying because she’s cute and soft, like they all are).  Hey!  Don’t touch me; I’m a wild animal!  I’m a chicken!  Have some respect!

It’s nice to have a little life form in the house, even though we are really very much surrounded with many many life forms, we don’t really need them in the house too.  But it’s still fun to have company.  Today she has an extra thick bed of hay in her box, so she’s riding rather high and has a good view.  Yesterday she was all about scratching.

I spoke too soon about her good behaviour.  Today was an out-of-the-box day, and I got a helper chicken suddenly flapping over the edge of her box..  She landed in the middle of floor then made her way over to me where I was slinging dirt, repotting to give all the tiny tomato shoots their own cells.  I also had some seed packets strewn about, and these interested her.   It’s just like having a cat in your business, except it’s a shy chicken.After her big outing to the world four feet away, she ate and ate and then napped for the rest of the afternoon.

HW was watching a movie about a little girl with a pet chicken.  She was always carrying her chicken around, hanging out (where did they get this stunt chicken?).  Then as she spent more and more of the movie wearing rubber boots with her pajamas, he deadpanned “She’s getting more like you all the time”.“She’s a free range chicken today”

Snoopers

It’s that time of year.  The geese are back, and the robins.  A little in advance of the retreat of snow.The so-called ailing chicken is quite lively, considering her posture problems.  She clambered into the nesting box today, and eats with an appetite.  She just needs delivery.  I have to monitor her meal time, too, because other hens come nosing around.  Whatcha got? Nosy little Perchick is convinced something’s going on there. I hear munching.

Cold mornings, hot afternoons

In the morning their water is frozen, the hens stand around with no necks,or on one foot. It’s a calm time.  After the mating, chasing, scrapping, squabbling, and gobbling, that is.  When they are first released, it’s mayhem.  Later it’s calm.  Time to groom. What is she doing in there? And glean.And doze off.   Sometimes when you look at animals, they look back at you with equally avid curiosity.  Cheeks is good at that.The Colonel has been given access to hen land.  I didn’t think he’d stay in there because the flock he protects is larger than just the Silkies, but he’s very comfortable. The chicks are showing their combs, nearly teens now, and they can use the male role model.  I’m not joking.  Young roosters hero worship the big cocks, and I bet good roo behaviour is learned, just like they learn to wipe their beaks and scratch from their mothers.

The first night I let him in there, too, at night when I usually do the airlift, I opened the fence and he matter of factly escorted the whole troupe (but one) to the coop.  A few chicks who have known nothing but the airlift process, were walking around the ramp, worming underneath it, clearly mystified how they were supposed to make the transition from out to in.  Funny.

Reports of my expiration have been greatly exaggerated

The “expiring” chicken continues to not expire.  She persists in staying in the coop all day, looking unwell, and living on.  She drinks, but doesn’t eat much, and is maybe even improved.Now I think she might pull through.

Inside, we have stopped talking about Apples moving back out.  We just have a house pet box troll chicken now.  It’s not like she’s a problematic house guest.  It’s like having a hamster, changing her newspaper every day.  She periscopes her neck up Hello! when there are unusual noises or we talk about her, but ignores all the normal house noises.

Foot spa for Apples

House chicken has her name.  It’s Apples, since she lives in an apple box (it’s a box troll thing).  And today she’s getting her feet vaselined.  Like all the other Silkies, to varying degrees, she’s afflicted with scaly mite.  Some of them showed marked improvement with the oil of oregano, some didn’t (some probably drank from puddles when their water got flavoured).  At any rate, the vaselining of the feet carries on, regularly.  It just usually takes place outside.Not in a comfortable chair. They’re so funny!  It’s funny to do, it’s funny to look at the pictures.  They all initially squeal and flap their feet, and then watch the proceedings interestedly, usually splaying out their feet like hands.   Then they get pissy after you set them down and they start preening their feet.  Look what you did to my feathers!  I had them just right!

Another expiring chicken

I have another chicken kicking the bucket.  A few have died this winter, from the crew of clipped beaks that we got our first year, so they’re all the same age, about 5 years old.  I’m glad, in a way, that they don’t live forever, but on the other hand it’s a little bit weird that they’re dropping like they’ve hit an expiry date.  My favorite hen (ok, one of) is from this batch, so I’m not looking forward to losing her.  She’s sweet.This hen showed lethargy for a couple days and then yesterday did not leave the coop.  In the morning she looked so nearly dead that I thought she’d be gone in minutes, but in the afternoon I got surprised.  She’d improved and was alert enough to look at me and accept some water. So she was only mostly dead.   She also found an egg to steal and sit on.  Very odd.

And she’s hung on overnight too, still with us.  She doesn’t look good, but I’ve been wrong before.  I’m giving her vitamins and water, just in case it’s not her time yet.

Back in the box

She’s back!

I couldn’t stand to see her picked on, by chicks half her age!  No respect.

She’s so meek and mild.  I had a moment I wasn’t completely sure I’d grabbed the right hen, but I knew as soon as I put her in the box and she settled in for the long term, that it was definitely her.  She’s perfectly content with minimal living. Just eats and naps, eats and naps.  Looks over the edge with her telescope neck when she’s hungry.  Hey, I’m out of food here.  HW is at her beck and call.

I think if I can get her to broody, she’ll get all fierce as soon as she has some chicks.  Too mild for her own good now.

Hot dirt!

I dumped a new bin of damp, warm dirt into their dust bath, and the birds all but charged me as they came running and jumping in. The dirt flew.  Notice Philippe content in an outside of the bath bath. In Silkieland Snow White is hogging their private bath. And the roosters are good with hay baths it seems.

Chickens love snow.  They go at it like kids on ice cream.  I always have to throw in some snowballs. Cheeks’ egg laying face. Aw, taking a little wing nap. Chilling in the girl’s fort, hay bale style.

Box chicken no more

Little Boxy got moved out of the house today, back into the flock.  Reluctantly.  She snuggled right in to my coat.

HW immediately commented how he missed having a chicken in the house (to talk to!) when passing by.

She was a pretty perfect house guest, as far as chickens go.  So quiet and passive.

She got right back to her, hanging with the hay bale crowd.  Eat, drink, dust bath, sit on the hay bale.  She’s smaller than her sister, still, but she’s meatier now.

Portraits of Puffcheeks

Puffcheeks is new here.  She’s my friend’s favourite chicken, god knows why I got entrusted with her, but she’s come to retire at my chicken rest home.  She’s a distant Auntie to Cheeks, my other Easter Egger.She’s always in the bath.  Except when I go in with the camera.  Then she hops right out.  Usually it’s her in the bath, often just her, and she’ll barely look up, while the other hens go nuts over the meal delivery.  Food?  Oh, do just leave it over there, I’ll get to it later.  Ta, dahling!Today I got a few closeups, the vast majority out of focus or blurred by her sudden movement. Hey!  Outta my shot!  I’m doing the modeling here!I think I caught her blinking – that inner eye membrane of birds.  Or else she has cataracts.Oh, how I wish this one was in focus.

One of these things is not like the others.  There’s been a breach of the girls fort.  There were layer hens in there, snuggled up with a bunch of Silkies in a bowl next to theri designated dirt bath.But it was a next-to-the-bathtub bath kind of day. They were all out of sorts.  Chicks outside, hens inside, roosters inside, all of them wanting to be on the other side of the fence again (except the roosters).