Category Archives: Chickens

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!

Jean jacket chicken

I have one chicken having a hard time.  She´s a low chicken – the lowest – I call her Sidewinder because of her habitual cringing deferential walk.  She arrived like that.  She had a chance at a fresh start – no one knew she was a low chicken before – but she blew it.  Creeping and ducking – she got pegged as low from the beginning.

She´s molted, so she was practically naked.

Her wing shoulders were getting all raw too, from the rooster’s attention, but that problem is eliminated along with the rooster.  Jacques went in the pot for repeated bad behavior, and it was high time.  I couldn´t go out there without a stick and I counted on the protection of the Colonel.  He was very good looking, but a good-looking jerk.  Now it´s much more peaceful in chicken land, for everyone.

Then I think she had a close call with a raptor (unusual in the spring – perhaps it was a spat with a peer).  I think so because there was an alarming feather splotch by the trail, and I had heard a shriek, but then there was no one missing, and Sidewinder turned up with the last few cling-on feathers on her back gone.  Totally naked.

But now she has a jean jacket.

 

I was at my friend’s (Spoiled Rotten Chicken Club, chapter III), and half her flock was running around in jean jackets.  It was cool, rainy weather, of course.  She´d made a whole rack of them from a pattern on the internet.  I couldn´t stop laughing.  The ones in jackets looked tough, or swaggery, like they were proud of their duds.  And the colouring of some of the Ameracaunas with grey-blue wings in their jackets was uncanny.

It’s like Toad Hall, or (some other UK childrens’ stories where the animals all wear vests and/or cravats) come to life. 

She gave me one for my beleaguered naked chicken, and she’s rocking’ it.  A little warmth, a little sun protection, and a little peck barrier.  It hasn´t seemed to gain her any status though.

HW says they all need club patches.

Chicken trap

I can explain.

I caught a chicken!

I had the raccoon trap set up for a couple of days (two raccoons down-no damage incurred-different story).  The chickens ignored the trap.

Then HW came in from closing the coops last night and asked “So do you want the trap set again?  Should I bait it with an egg?”

Me: “Isn´t it set?  What do you mean? It was set an hour ago!”

You see, somebody left a snack in here.

HW:  “Oh yeah?  It was set an hour ago?”

Then he showed me the picture.

And I laughed, and laughed.  When he let her out she “took off” for the coop.

But there had been a cracked egg in the trap – the bait.

No trace remained of the egg.  I bet she thoroughly enjoyed that, eating it all to herself with no competition.  It was probably worth it.

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. 

 

There´s a woodpecker zooming backing and forth from in front of the beehive to over the poplars behind the pigs.  She´s as regular as a transatlantic flight and obviously is tending a nest at one end of the flight path, or the other.

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.