Category Archives: Chickens

The time of the fledglings

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

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

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

 

 

Meanwhile, back in the livestock zone:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tomatoes already?!

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

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

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

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

A pile of snakes sunning in the pile of straw.

The walnut tree roosters

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

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

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

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

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

Good looking guys.

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

What, were you born in a box?

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

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

Thing is, I didn´t put her in there! 

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

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

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

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

To the tomato forest!

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

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

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

Oreo update

The Oreos are practically grownup now, or at least think they are.

First, they graduated to the chickery, as all chicks do at about three days old.  That means a nightly grab and go from the chickery to a box in the greenhouse for the night. 

So cute, with their little wing feathers coming in.  One is turning grey quite rapidly.

Chicken selfie – Mom under one arm with a handful of chicks.

Look at those beautiful little wings!

Into the box.

I throw a lid over them for the night and first thing in the morning, it´s an aerial transport back outside to the chickery.

Then the rains came.

I figured that the stuff growing in the greenhouse was big enough to not be threatened by one tiny hen and two chicks, so instead of bringing the chickery into the greenhouse, I just turned the three of them loose inside.

Oh, what good times.

I had a good time working in the greenhouse with my feathered company.  Non stop clucking and peeping.  The chicks just tweet tweet constantly.  

Mom was quite fond of settling down on the edge of the wall like this, and I knew how the water level had been known to come up and pool in the greenhouse in heavy rains like this.

In the dark I went out with a light, planning to set them on high ground or in a box.  I found mom and chicks not tucked against the wall, but on the very top of a mountain of straw, her personal Ararat.  She´s no dummy.

The chicks got three whole days in the greenhouse, rummaging around in the straw, tugging on tomato plants, and scampering along the wooden baseboards.

And then, suddenly, they integrated themselves into the greater chicken society.

Luckily, I was outside with them when it happened.  As usual, I glanced over, checking for both chicks, and there was only one chick!  Mom was pacing against the wall of the greenhouse, starting to get distressed.  Where´s the other chick!!?

(Music of doom):

 

The chipmunk hole!

I went outside.  There was the chick, walking up and down the path on the wrong side of the greenhouse wall!

I tried to catch it.

The chick quite smartly scurried into the shrubbery.  Well then, it´s time to be outside, I guess.

Then I tried to catch Mom.  Phew!  That failed miserably, so I caught the other chick instead and introduced it to the shrubbery where it scurried off to join its sibling.

Mom I had to chase and coax until she hopped out the door on her own, where the lovesick roosters were waiting for her, and she ran off into the wrong set of shrubs.  I did some more chasing, until she went into the same clump the chicks were last seen in.

Good. I peered into the bushes looking for the happy family.  I could see her, but not the chicks!  I eventually found them – they were perched up off the ground on bent branches, already pretending to be real birds.

At night I opened the door of the greenhouse and Mom came around and hopped back in.  This is where we spend the night.  The third night I came to let her into the greenhouse and…. just one chick hanging around underneath the coop.

A: Wow! That´s got to be a first, a hen deciding to go to bed in a different place than the night before! Not only that, a coop she hasn´t slept in for months, in a new location.

B: Here we go again with the nightly chicks left outside drill – but I was wrong!  As soon as I came around the loose chick started distress peeping, and mom popped outside immediately, bristling.   What´s going on out here!? The second chick popped out behind her. I hid behind a bush to watch. Both chicks gathered up again, she coached them up the ramp together (!!!!).  WOW!

Never before!  First night!  On her own initiative! She deserves a good chicken mom medal!

And I was worried she was a little inbred, with her head puff not as puffy as the others.  They´re actually getting smarter!

Now the Oreos are right independent.  Mom opted to sleep in the small coop with the Brahma hens.  She takes the nest box at night with the chicks.

(There´s jean jacket hen) – when it rains I have to make a few rain tents for everyone. 

Mom and the Oreos are rather wild these days.  Hard to catch on camera.  I get distance sightings.

Under the rain tent

So far so good.

They´re often off on their own, in the pasture, roaming rather farther than the other hens tend to.

Once I found the Oreos inside the pig zone, Mom running up and down on the outside of the electric fence.  The chicks had just slipped through it.

She wasn´t alone!  One of the guinea cocks was pacing back and forth right next to her,  for all the world also worried about the chicks (!?!).  I was aghast, of course, at the situation, but the chicks popped right back through the fence when I came on the scene, and the guinea quickly resumed ignoring them all.  Different species.

The pigs are so big these days

Next time Mom was on the inside, chicks outside, I don´t know how she did that, and as I approached, so did the pigs.  Terrified, she plunged through the fence, tangling her leg in it and shrieking.  The pigs came up – I was totally worried that they would harm her, but they only nosed her, curious grunting, as I untangled her to run off again.

The Oreos are already getting up on their own in the morning, coming out before Mom, and running off from her.  They stick to each other like glue, though.

Wild jungle chicks:

Peep peep!

Three new blondies!  This Silkie hen hatched out three of three “cuckoo eggs” – full sized Ameracauna eggs. 

These three, unlike the last two (Oreos), while also Ameracunas, happen to be blondes!

That´s time-for-a-nap behavior.  Burrowing in.

Gone to bed.

This hen also molted before going broody, but didn’t regrow during her confinement.

I haven´t had little yellow chicks for a long long time!

The sprinting chicken

Chickens are funny and eccentric when they are left to “organize themselves”.

Every morning when we open the layer coop, one hen is waiting in the blocks.  There´s some jostling for pole position. If she´s on form, she´ll be the first down the ramp.

Then the human coop-opener heads for the Silkie coop at the other end of the greenhouse.  Inevitably, this hen passes us on the way, legging it in the same direction at a flat out run.  Racetrack chicken. 

Get to the other coop and she´s pacing anxiously underneath it, looking up and twitching her tail.  I´m holding in an egg here!  Open up.

The second we drop that ramp, she´s up it, barging through the Silkies inside that were planning to come down, leaving a clamour of miffed squawks in her wake.

I´ve got an egg to lay!  Coming through.    Make way!

Every day.  She´s decided that she lays eggs in the other coop, first thing in the morning.  Don´t get in her way.

Granny and Grampy having a moment

I was lucky to see and capture Granny and the Colonel sharing an affectionate moment.

These two are the last remaining of my original Silkies that arrived in 2014.  Presumably they are the same age.  They could easily be 5 or more years old now. 

They were just standing in the shade together for a few minutes, while the other Silkies dust bathed on the other side of the tree.

Granny even offered a little grooming.

Adorable!

Granny is doing extremely well.  I thought she was on her way out a while ago, but since the hens all moved outside for the summer, she´s been toddling around with the best of them.  I think she can´t see as sharp; she doesn´t bounce out of the way like the others and you have to not step on her.

What is the appeal of these hay sacks?

When I finished planting the rest of the greenhouse, I had to move out the assorted boxes and junk that have accumulated in there.

These are the sacks of hay and poop that I bag when I clean out the hen coops, on their way to being carted to the garden for mulch.

For some reason, the hens are always fascinated by these bags, jumping on them and scratching in the top.

Jacques the rooster, the weirdo, squeezed himself in between the bags, and then got himself stuck. 

Outdoor Adventure Silkies

 No one expresses the joy of summer quite like the Silkies.  They sunbathe hard. 

 A bunch of white snowballs wriggling in the dirt or spread out flat like they´ve deflated.

Or for variety, going for a hike.

Sometimes the red hens get right  in there too for a bath.

What I wonder is, songbirds take exuberant baths in puddles all the time.  Chickens are birds.  Why don´t they like the water?

The biggest Silkie news is that the oil of oregano treatment is totally the cure for Scaly Leg Mite! So exciting!  I´ve got a few drops of oil of oregano in a bottle, and I shake that vigorously, and pour some of the mix in their water dish, not even every day, just enough to get a bit of a rainbow on their water.  Their legs and feet are obviously so much better, although I haven´t been doing Vaseline treatments.   Just the oil of oregano, or OOO, as I call it.  I´ve got plenty around for human health; now recommended for chicken feet health.  The layer hens have entirely cleared up – their feet look so good now, and I´m sure the Brahmas will respond too.

Another hen is boxed, with more pretty blue eggs.  Broody 2, 2017.  I have a special variety of hairless chicken that seems to go broody first.  I don´t know if broodiness goes with molting or not – do they need the long break of setting to reset themselves and regrow after a molt?

Hens are usually pleased to go in the box, and get their private trough.  This one is just attacking the food.  I of course provide a buffet during their confinement; in the wild they would be able to pop out for a snack when they got peckish but not so in the box.

There is an important rule though: Thou shalt know the difference between sloth and broodiness.

They might be doing this:

They might be in there all day.  They might slam their wings down and growl if you try to take eggs, but they may not be broody.  They might be laying an egg, or just thinking about it.

I was impatient to set someone on eggs and boxed one I thought was broody – she was NOT.  She was pleased at first with the snack, but upon finding herself trapped, she loudly registered her outrage, drawing the Colonel to pace at the screen door,  and effected a dramatic eruption out of the box, after kicking all the eggs around.  A broody will be thrilled to have eggs, and keep them in a tidy group.

So I´m waiting for one to turn.  They´re just having too much fun outdoors right now to think about motherhood.

Planting in the greenhouse

This is from a month ago, May 1, but I  was so demoralized by how the day ended that I didn’t finish posting.  Until now.

The chickens no longer live in the greenhouse, and it’s time for the green things to go in.  I got in there with the broadfork, breaking up the rows.  Tomatoes first, against the north wall.

After having all the birds wintering in the “chicken dome”, the soil looks, well, awful.  It looks compacted and desiccated.  It would have fooled me.  But that´s not the case. 

The top quarter inch or so is dry, and compacted.  When I crack it with the broadfork, that top crust breaks up in scales, and right underneath, the ground is wet as anything, no harder than anywhere outside where chickens haven´t been trampling, and so very full of worms.

Worms everywhere.

Really big worms.

 

So the hens got very excited.  They were following right on my fork, poking their heads down into the holes to fish out worms, and vigorously scratching up the flakes of crust.  They were feasting.

Until I decided they were being a little too hard on the worms, who didn´t have a fair chance, and I evicted the chickens.

I hung up a sheet of row cover (if there´s anything else around I use for so many things it wasn´t intended for, I don´t know) the length of the greenhouse to wall off the side I was working on from the side I wasn´t going to get to today.  The birds can play on that side.

I let one chicken stay with me – my favorite low chicken. 

She can use some extra worms.  She was actually perturbed at being alone with the others on the other side of the cloth (they could see each other through it), but she was consoled by the worms.

You see, it was a rainy day.  A drizzly morning, forecasted to be a thundering downpour day, so I didn´t have the heart to shut my birds out of the greenhouse to crowd, disgruntled and soggy, under their coops.

The guinea´s thinking about it  Looks drier in there.

As it got wetter, the birds steadily found their way into the vast shelter of the greenhouse. 

Inside, I kept working, attended by low chicken, while the rain drummed on the plastic and the birds all trickled in, chirruping and shaking off, pleased to be let back into the greenhouse.

 

 

 

It was really very cool to spend all day with my birds.  It´s nice to listen to them chat, complain, brag;  I could peek over and see what they´re up to.

They´re always doing something funny: piling up on the hay sacks, trying to have a bath in the roots of the fig tree (naughty!)

Planting the tomatoes out is a big day.

From past experience, I just break up the ground a bit with the broadfork, and plant directly into the ground as is. No turning! After I drew the rows with the broadfork, it was time to plug tomatoes.

Here´s where I found out how well my newspaper pots made out: the answer- excellently.

I tore off the top ring where I had written in Sharpie the kind of tomato, and left that by or around the plant as a marker.  Then I tore off the rest of the paper and was left holding a tall root ball.

On the other side of the wall, the chickens had the time of their life shredding all that scrap newspaper that I´d put in a box, and littering it all over the room, the scamps.

Chickens, I´ve observed, spend a lot of time lounging.  Most of the afternoon is devoted to sunbathing, dirt bathing, combing their feathers, or napping.  On this rain day, they were piled up, murmuring, dropping their heads for a nap or settling right down into sleep pancakes.  Others would be active, picking at something – they never all fall asleep at once, but it seems like someone´s always contentedly napping in the afternoon.

 

At the end of the day, tired, with 70 tomatoes and a few pepper plants planted, I turned in.  It was still pouring rain and the chickens were awake, so I just them in the greenhouse.  There´d been no attempts on the wall, or breaches, so I was confident.

I was working on this post, before going out to close them up.  There had also been a surge in squawking I was wondering about. …

Disaster!  Carnage!

The wall was breached- one end down, and every single tomato plant was defoliated- not a leaf left!  Just a roomful of puny green stems.  A couple of hens not gone to bed yet, finishing off the devastation.  Next time you can get wet, you ingrates!

Before I went to bed I planted some more tomato seeds, but to say it was a major loss is a major understatement.  I had some spare plants, but not an entire spare crop.  I was NOT HAPPY.  Completely defeated, more like.

As it turned out, despite the significant trauma of being beheaded, the same day as transplanted, almost all the tomatoes survived.  Only five were broken off by the hens and therefore terminated.

It was a definite setback, but in the next couple weeks they regrew some awkward leaves, and then left that early bad memory behind.  Now you wouldn´t know it had ever happened, although they might be a week or two behind where they might have been.

Tomatoes today:

 

 

 

 

Grass for the Oreos

It was supposed to be a nice day, so Mom and the Oreos (Thanks for naming them, Mom) got to move outside!   I transplanted the chickery from the arid hard packed environment of the greenhouse, where they spent a couple days, to the outdoors it was designed for.

Mom was so excited about grass – I can believe it- she was broody for so long she´d probably forgotten about grass – that when I lowered her into place she didn´t take a single step, just started gobbling grass where I set her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then the roosters came.  The two remaining “exile” roosters, that stay apart from the main flock, and continue to sleep in the small coop, alone (I´m waiting for an opportunity to rehome them), lost no time discovering the new mama.

They made fools of themselves staring longingly through the mesh and giving some dancing performances.

Someday, she will be mine

I don´t get it myself, but she´s always been very popular.

 

They were resoundingly ignored by the object of their attention, but hovered around devotedly all day

Will it rain or won´t it?  Foggy, misty day – the chickery gets a rain cape.

When evening fell and mama settled down for the night, she and the Oreos got airlifted into a bucket to go in the warmer greenhouse for the night. 

She was not impressed.  I´ve never used a bucket before.  The bucket is not very roomy, but it was handy (I got her a box tonight).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guinea eggs!?

I was working in the greenhouse and a hen started making a big commotion BaBWOCK!  BaBWOCK!! (etc-)

I looked out just in time to see a red hen (chicken) on the perch of the high rise guinea house, just before she took off.  She was most likely shrieking about her imminent long flight, like she was on the high dive board.

I turned back to work, and then it occurred to me – What was she doing up there?  Could she be laying eggs in the guinea house?!

I got a step ladder, climbed up to see, and sure enough, she WAS laying in the guinea house.  For a few days.  Well THAT helps explain the loss in egg production I was troubled by.

But hark.  She´s not the only one laying in there!  There are lovely pale brown pointy guinea eggs in there too!  What a sweet little nest.

Cool.  Guinea eggs!  She´s not laying in the woods after all.

Nice to know at least the guinea hen knows how to go inside her coop, even if she does sleep outside no matter the weather.

As for the chicken hen, what a cuckoo!

 

Brahma babes and Oreo chicks

There they are!  The four beautiful new hens!

They´re installed in the Silkie coop, which although it´s made for much smaller tenants, is very roomy right now, since the Silkies made a mass migration into the other coop with the big girls.

Oh, hello!

They´re so relaxed, laid back.  They came strolling out, carefully but unconcerned.

They seemed quite pleased with the grass.

So beautiful.

They´re huge!  Big, cushy birds, like if a couch was a chicken.  We carried them over from the driveway in the evening, one under each arm.  HW´s nodded off on the walk.  We put them in the coop with the two remaining Silkie roosters, who must have been pleased.

In the greenhouse, the chicks are rocking the chickery with their stepmom.

They´re just too cute, with little white bibs and butts.

Trying to crawl under for a warming.

I offended her, obviously.  That´s the angry mom face.  And stance.

One egg didn´t hatch. Two out of three ain´t bad.

Mom is looking much better.  Her confinement allowed her to re grow her back and head feathers, so she´s less funny looking.

HW hasn´t stopped laughing at how big they are, compared to “Mom”.  They can stand up while wrapped in a wing, and pop up to eye level with her.  They´re not going to fit under her for very long.

 

A little nap.

Surprise! Additions to the family

I came home from work to find two new little black chicks bouncing around the box with (step-)Mom!  They´re already done?  Time flies!

I came back later with a camera and it was a different story.  Nothing to see here.  The chicks were stowed.  She has one more egg too.

Mom´s looking good.  She´s had time to regrow her feathers during her confinement.

I had to coax and poke and weather firm chicken growling to get a peek at a chick.  Oh!  There´s a little head.

There´s one!

They are as big and as lively as a week-old Silkie chick (these are Ameracaunas- they´re going to grow up to have cheeks!)

Time to break out the chickery:)

Also this evening I unexpectedly took receipt of four gorgeous Brahma hens.  They are large, and serene, and sweet!  So lovely.  They were taken directly to bed, and we´ll get to see them tomorrow:)

 

 

Spring

Gosh, it´s been too long – I´ve been so busy!  It´s garden and greenhouse time – very busy.  Everyone is well, the piglets are no longer -lets, just pigs, the bees are busy, the hens are entertaining and entertained.  I have lots to share…but for now, a glimpse:

The bunnies are grazing in the field alongside the hens and robins.  They are almost all brown- some have tufts of white fur that haven´t fallen out yet, making them distinguishable.  There´s always a rabbit around with a frond of greenery hanging out of its mouth.  Low-speed chases happen – I suspect they are mating chases.

 

Sometimes I accidentally count the bunnies in with the guinea fowl.

The guineas stick closer to home than I initially expected.

And traveling as a pack, which I love.  They´re all friends.

They can really get into a good dust bath too.

The dust bath is the most popular activity of the season, now that there are warm sunny days to laze around in and  wile away the hours sticking a leg out awkwardly…

This is the guinea spot in the woods, right by our path.  I suspect she´s laying her eggs here.  Can you see all three?

This is the hen who thinks she´s a Silkie, always hangin´ with the fluffballs.

The Silkie tribe is becoming adventuresome (safety in numbers?), and every day venture a little farther into the woods to skritch in the leaves, or come a few feet farther down the path to the house.

Led by their intrepid leader, the Colonel:

The bees are full team ahead hauling in pollen. (I meant “steam”, but that makes more sense)

Returning a soggy bee to the hive, incoming bees use my hand for a landing strip.

First boxed hen

I´ve put the first broody hen of the year to box.  She´s been determined to brood for a couple weeks, daily protesting the removal of her clutch.  I´ve relented, and put her on three pretty blue eggs (Ameracaunas).  I hope she can do it;  she´ll be the first of my Silkies to sit on a clutch of alien eggs.  If it works, it will be an ugly duckling situation.  My last attempt at egg swapping was rejected – they rolled the big eggs out and down the ramp.

She´s not a very good-looking hen; in fact, she´s an unusually ugly little lady, but she´s feisty and single-minded, keeps her eggs tidy (not allowing them to spill out),  and has been steadfastly resisting my attempts to break her up, so she might turn out be a great mother.

Invasion of the fluffballs

This is supposed to be the layer coop.

There´s been a full scale cooporate takeover.  The Colonel has moved in, and brought his ladies with him.

There´s been a couple Silkie hens that decisively moved in with the big girls weeks ago, but HW noticed the Colonel exiting the layer coop in the morning, and told me he suspected a relocation.

I think, because of the rain the last few days, that the Silkies couldn´t be bothered to walk the 40 feet back to their own coop, and just went up the proximate ramp.

The flocks hang out surprisingly intimately all day, piled up in the same dirt bowls, eating together, laying eggs in each other´s coops, and when it rains, huddled shoulder to shoulder under the nearest coop with their shoulders hunched up (the guineas too).  I LOVE this!  I´m so happy they get along.

I´m over the moon that since the integration of the flocks this winter and their coexistence in the greenhouse, that I can retire the tiresome, rickety Silkie un-“tractor”, and all the birds are fully free again.  What they do with their freedom is sometimes unexpected, and usually entertaining.

That´s the Colonel in the foreground. White.

 

 

 

Sometimes a name alights on a being like a hawk landing on a fencepost.  Here to stay.  The rooster formerly known as Snowball (we do our best, until their real name arrives), is now irrevocably, unquestionably, the Colonel.

The Colonel is the Big Boss of All the Chickens around here, ruthlessly laying down the law and keeping Jacques in line (that´s the big Copper Maran rooster at the back of the coop), despite Jacques being about 5 times his size. This was very unexpected.

Any human visitors think it´s absolutely hilarious when I point out the big boss.  They point;  that guy? The pint sized pompom?  That big rooster is scared of HIM?  No way! Then they are usually treated to an exhibition – the Colonel marching authoritatively towards the giant, showy rooster who dared to come too close, and Jacques the Giant hastily looking for somewhere else to be.

Jacques gets no respect.  The Colonel keeps him looking over his shoulder.  HW calls him a punk.  He´s still growing into his leadership role, I think.  He´s pretty good with his hens, unselfish and a food announcer; they like him, but he can´t count, and doesn´t organize them very well;  they scatter, and scattering is not good for chicken longevity.  Also, he attacks me daily.  I whack him with sticks and throw water on him; he has a short memory.  The Colonel doesn´t hesitate to rescue me, which is nice, but feels like the wrong order of things.

The Colonel keeps track of eleven Silkie hens, and they typically flow in a big group without stragglers (It´s awesome to observe chickens in as free a state as possible- they have a culture, and it evolves; they are in charge, and I serve them, with shelter, food, and evening security lockup).  The Colonel has one young protege, a blond rooster that rolls with the big flock, but there are four more roosters that are exiles and just huddle at a distance.  These poor roosters are due for rehoming – they´re on Kijiji.  They´re quite gorgeous, and they´ll make great rooster-leaders if they get a chance.

Guineas getting along

I thought this hen was about to expire.  She spent a couple days hunched up in the greenhouse (no neck), with her eyes half closed.     When hens get like that they aren´t feeling well.  Sometimes they pull through it, sometimes they die.  This hen is very old.  She could be six or seven years old.  She retired from doing eggs some time ago.  But it seems she´s pulling through, and has decided to camp at a higher altitude today.  Her neck is getting longer too.

I haven´t planted anything out in the GH yet, so the doors are open for the various fowl to come and go.  Mostly they don´t go in there unless it rains; they are reveling in playing outside and have had enough of the greenhouse.

A guinea update – on the first night of freedom the new pair came back to the greenhouse!  The second night, they were all up on the guinea house together- adorable!  They don´t spend the day together – they travel in two separate packs all day, but they´re cool.  They know where they live.  The three-pack has a favorite spot by the trail, where the hen nestles down into the leaves under a little tree.  I think she´s laying eggs, but not yet broody.  She didn´t pick a very secret spot.

 

 

From farm to spa

Two lucky hens went for a long drive in a box.

I have a long-running ad on Kijiji to divest of Silkie roosters, rather than axe them, and sometimes I sell hens and eggs.  Keeping the flock manageable.

I think it´s simply hilarious to put them in EGGS boxes.  No one else thinks it’s quite so funny.  “It’s like the chicken and the eggs…which came first?  The eggs are going to come out of the box, but not right away?… Oh never mind”.  Also it´s like the Boxtrolls.

Grumpy chicken is not pleased with the box

Anyway, two hens went for a long drive (they made hardly a peep), and got a major lifestyle upgrade.  I got a text late in the day reporting that the hens  had loved every minute of a shampoo and warm blowdry (I bet they did.  I bet they’re simply gawgeous. ), and they also enjoy being held and petted. We’re not on the farm any more, Dorothy.  They’re probably hoping I forget to pick them up from this spa weekend.   It´s the bouff I´ve always dreamed of! I’ve always wanted a good blowout. I can´t even imagine how fluffy they got.

I did choose two of the shyest, most anxious and retiring chickens, because I had a feeling they were going somewhere to be pets, and they could appreciate the lifestyle upgrade.   I didn’t know it was going to be a spa package upgrade.

Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you: purse chickens.

April summer

The mud season might be very short here in Nova Scotia this year.  Or  else we´re just being served an appetizer of summer in mid April.  20° C and sun sun sun.  I got a mild sunburn on my second garden day.  The ozone layer ain´t what it used to be.

The chipmunks are back!  Where DO chipmunks spend the winter? The birdsong has changed.  Sparrows are here rummaging under the feeder, and the birds that wintered over have moved on to the good wild food.  Swallows have been seen – the rumours are flying, the first tick bite reports are coming in, and the peepers started up yesterday morning.  That means bugs and buds are right behind.

The chickens are all being encouraged out of the greenhouse, although we haven´t lifted their coops out yet, and they are reveling.  Making fools of themselves in a group bath.

Unexpectedly, the Silkies are still hanging out with the layers.  

Or at least, hanging around nearby, like wannabes watching the cool kids.

As usual, the guineas are furtively skulking around in the bushes.  They march around systematically cleaning up (hopefully, vacuuming up ticks).  They look like rocks, with their heads down all the time. 

The pigs are reveling too.  They have dug themselves a nice hole and stretch out with extended hooves, basking in the sun and pig-snoring, but I haven´t been able to catch them at it on camera, they leap up as soon as they hear me, and they have good ears.

First springy day.

I was in shorts all day today.  The snow earlier this week is all gone in the clear areas, and it was warm!  These are the loveliest days of spring. The (very few) days before all the bugs come out.  It would have been the first barefoot day of the year, but I cannot go barefoot here.  Thorns everywhere – berry brambles and hawthorn, and I’ve had a hawthorn in my foot before.  Alas, here I live in boots. The mud season is here. This year the robins are back long before the spring peepers.  The peepers will announce the bugs.

My bees obviously made it through the winter well, having a good fly today in the blessing of the sun.  It seems like all of them are facing the hive – the backwards flight, calibrating on the hive location.

The pigs are captive and content, so things are a whole lot less exciting around here lately- thankfully!

Tail wag – munching grass

They’re getting into rooting like old pros in the soft ground now.

This is Adventure Pig (A.P.), the great escape ringleader

And warming up to me.  They come snorting up the camera, and then scamper away.

The hens were having a good day in the mud world today.  I saw them slurping up worms like spaghetti.  The chickens don’t know it, but these are their last days sleeping in the greenhouse.  As soon as the rain is done, their coops are out!  I´m sure they can’t wait; there´s a week of sun coming, and they´ll be released outside at first light (as opposed to the past frosty interim days, where I keep them locked up until mid-morning when it warms up.  .  Summer chicken life – FREEdom!

Inside the chicken dome it was spa in the sun time.  They make divots all over to bathe in, today’s location (odd) was by the figs and feed sacks (oh well).

Knocked one over

I lone that I got this picture proof of how well they get along.  As a generality, they tend towards their own birds, but as individuals, the layers and bantams can get in the bath together.  I´m so grateful they’re successfully integrated, because I won’t have to surround the Silkies this year to protect them from the other chickens.  They can be free ranging too.  It will be interesting to see how much space they actually use now the flock is so much bigger.  Silkies barely “range” at all.

Free chickens

Here they come.

The chickens get some time out almost every day now.  Very soon they will be finished with the greenhouse for the year.

They’re getting tetchy in there.  Starting to hate each other.  They come running to the door when I come, hoping I’ll prop it open.

Although eager to get out, they don’t stay out, unless it’s a sunny day.  There’s still snow on most of the ground, and if it’s grey, they find their way back into the greenhouse pretty quickly.

Guineas in the sun.  They find their way back inside too, when done exploring.

He’s gone to bed!

(Short post)

He’s really gone to bed!  Another month behind the ladies; months since moving here … this boy‘s set a new record for resistance to bedtime.

It doesn’t reflect well on his intellect.

He might have been finally convinced by the hard freeze we’re having.  He was cold out on the roof alone and relented, tucking himself in with the ladies.

Took him long enough!

Days out

It´s so nice and sunny so many days now, and the ground is exposed, so the hens are getting open-door days!  Spring time!

When I come around, they always pout at me through the screen door:

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Please! Can we come out?! We’ll be good!

When I open the door they pop out like corks but mill around the door, tentative.

Really? We can come out today?!

It’s so nice to see them outside, in the sunshine.img_5488

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The leghorn legging it off on her own

In no time, they’ll be sprinting down the path to the house, like the last one there is a rotten egg.

Silkies being odd.

I had a persistent little guest in  the layer coop the other day.  I was cleaning it out – bagging up the thick accumulated layer of hay and crap for relocation to the garden (my chicken mulch cycle), and along came Granny.

img_5402I lifted her out a couple of times, because she was definitely in the way, but she came right back in.  She was determined to do something, but it wasn’t clear what.  She just sort of dottered around, and I had to relocate her to work around her.  I think she might be losing her vision.

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All the contents removed from mesh floor
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Oh, is that the goal? A good nest box?

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Ahhhh. I stay here now.

Then, for more bizarre behavior, along came a Silkie rooster, who got all worked up scratching and wiggling down in the clean hay in a corner, gurgling and clucking for all the world like a hen that’s very pleased with finding an awesome place to lay an egg.  He was just giddy with his burrowing.  WTH?  There’s hay all over to wriggle in.  He was really excited about this corner, though.

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What a weirdo!img_5414

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Granny’s all What the heck are you doing over there?
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Now here comes a hen: I live here! That’s my nest box, and what’s with the dude in the corner?

Poultry podiatry

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some hang their legs out straightMy poultry podiatry methods have advanced.  Still a hilarious procedure though.

Instead of a miticide foot bath, followed by Vaseline, I’ve found that the best approach is just to Vaseline the little feet, and preferably, do it again 2-3 days later.  Even if they have it bad (it being the scaly leg mite that’s such a problem for Silkies in particular), the Vaseline softens up the scales and the unwanted stuff sloughs right off.  I think it would be enough to treat them like this 3 or 4 times a year for a preventative.

Plus it’s way easier than organizing a tub of warm water.  Just have a rag on hand to wipe your greasy hand on before touching their feathers again.

some hold them up in front of them

I don’t wait for night any more either.  I used to put a toque over their heads to grab them out of the coop at night.  I think partly they’re just used to the routine now and are resigned to it.  I can do it any time of day.  Everyone screams when they’re first grabbed, but then as soon as you start rubbing their feet, they quiet right down and hold still.  They seem to thoroughly enjoy it.  Who doesn’t love a foot rub?

img_5308 img_5304 img_5303 My chickens’ feet are doing quite well now.  With the feathered feet, Silkies almost always have scaly mite, and show it fast- the white “dust” on their black skin.  Almost every flock of any kind of hens I’ve seen has scaly mite to some degree, but it’s less noticable on layer hens, until they get old.

I’ve gone through the Silkies twice this winter with Vaseline treatment, and my layers once, some of whom arrived with bad visible scaly mite troubles, and now everyone’s legs look very good, except the three oldest Silkies, whose legs are merely “not bad”.  They arrived afflicted years ago, and I haven’t really hoped to eradicate it in my flocks, but to keep it well controlled.

make sure to get the legs up to the joint

I’ve heard that the true cure for Scaly mite is oregano!  Put oregano in their feed, or oil of oregano in their water, and the mites jump right off their legs!  Exciting to know a possible cure, but it will be a while before enough evidence is gathered.

Can I please be put down now?

Granny

We have an old hen.

img_5281She’s the last of the original three – her and the Grandpa – the big boss of the greenhouse.  He’s not showing his age at all, but Granny is obvious.

She’s tiny, she moves slow, she’s not very white anymore, her head tips forward, no one bosses her, and her poof of hair feathers overhangs her eyes in a way that makes her look wizened.

img_5279She is the progenitor of half of all the Silkies in the greenhouse, but I think her hatching days are over. Every morning she eats with gusto but then toddles back to the coop, hops on the ramp, and goes back to bed.  One of these days she won’t wake up in the morning.

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