Category Archives: Chickens

Dawn in the chicken dome

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

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

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

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

Chicken spa!

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

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

I’m so getting in there.

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

Comin’ in there!

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

Cream Puff on the left is determined to get in there

And she’s in! This tub holds four!

 

Oh yeah. There’s the hot bath face.

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

So bath day was a huge hit.

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

Bad chicken pick up lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And boy do they respond:

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

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

Do I look impressed?  This is my impressed face.

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

Talk to the beak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

House chicks II

These chicks need to go outside.

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

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

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

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

 

House chicks!

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

Freshly washed

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

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

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

Chick warming

I would like a warming and to eat, please

 

Back at home

I’m home!

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

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

The great escape

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

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

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

Chickens like eating ice.

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

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

Chickens in trees

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

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

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

They grow up so fast

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

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

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

Open the coop for a minute…

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

So it begins

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

Cheeks

 

 

Take a look at her now!

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

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

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

Stop following me around!

I’m a cozy chick!

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

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

Broody kennel

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

Is that…Aluminum foil?

What, is it arts and crafts time?!

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

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

Inevitable, perhaps.

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

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

We’re gonna have house chicks!

Fowl life in the Greenhouse

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

 

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

All well

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

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

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

 

Winter chicks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time to groom! Everyone at once now.

 

Keet’s day out!

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

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

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

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

Curiosity saved the chicken.

Chicken door!

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

Is that a … chicken door?

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

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

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

First one through!

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

At this time of year?

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

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

Winter jacket

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

Poor thing, those raw wing tops.

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

She seems mildly pleased with it

Then the looky-lous come.

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

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

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

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

Poopstruck

In the morning you always have to check on the chicks.  They can get in trouble, get stuck in the coop, whathaveyou. They’re creative.

This morning one guinea chick was gone, no body, no ideas:(  Now the last keet has no little friends to grow up with.  And the white Silkie chick was MIA too.  I went hunting in the small coop, yep, she was in there, in the corner, and I poked her, and she came scampering out.

Covered in shit.

Her mom just looked at her as she ran by.  I don’t know how hens can be so expressive.  They’re masters of body language.  Like, what have you done NOW? and/or That’s gonna get all over my feathers when I have to sit on you!

This chick took a direct hit between the shoulders.  A big, wet poop.  I can’t say I’ve ever had to deal with this before.

It was time for a washing.

I thought I could get some water and a washcloth and wipe her down, but now, it was beyond wiping.  It was all under her wings, down her back, dripping down sides.  Pretty much only her head was clean.  She got a thorough bathing, and because their feathers are yellow when wet, I wasn’t sure she was really clean.

As wet as the day she hatched.

She enjoyed the bathing, by the way, nice, warm water.  So then I thought I’ll let her run back to mom and mom will sit on her until she’s dry and warm again, right?

Run back to mama!

So she runs, shivering, and then mama is reluctant to settle on her.  The little chick is huddling, and standing on tiptoes, trying to push herself up into her fluff, crying, but she wasn’t getting the warming she needed.

Hey, I’m cold! You see what that lady did to me?

Plan B then. I grabbed her up, stuck her in a pocket (it’s so automatic now.  I can stick a chick, or several, in a pouch or pocket, or down my shirt, and they instantly go quiet – dark and warm?  No further questions).  It’s when they have a head out and can see what’s happening they cheep like the sky is falling.

I brought her back to the house, wrapped her in a washcloth, and stuck her under the covers with HW (Huh? What?  I hear a chick…).  He didn’t object to the excuse to stay in bed.

There was some mild, curious cheeping for a bit:  I say, this seems irregular.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you!

Then the  chick conked out for a long nap.  Very long.  Very quiet.

I peeked.

Oh, I’m awake. I’m just not going to say anything to ruin this.

Eventually she wiggled out of the washcloth and went for an exploratory crawl with her little talons (Hey!  Ouch!).  She came out fluffy as anything, and passed the sniff test, so I returned her to mom in the greenhouse, who also smelled her!

HW (skeptical):  How do you know that she smelled her?

Me:  Oh I know a smelling when I see one.  She leaned over, beak an inch away, and then was satisfied and resumed her business.  It was a sniffing.

Never a dull moment.

Greenhouse peace

I hope it means the guineas are happy to be in the GH, that they don’t spend half the day yelling anymore.  They are much quieter.

The GH is a chaotic scene littered with debris- just the way the birds like it.

The hens and guineas pretty much completely ignore each others’ existence.  They hop through the door right next to each other, graze, and show no sign of noticing each other.  All the chickens notice each other, all the time, though.

It’s colder now, so the layer hens, who still have their coop outside, drift inside, to where it’s warmer, while all the teenagers like to hang outside.

Four little chicks are alive and well.  Two guineas and two Silkies.  So cute.The two hens who were broody are sort of co-parenting the chicks. The one who seemed to stay broody changed her mind and is now the main Mom (after the other being the main Mom for at least a week).  Now they tend to hang out together with the chicks. 

Oh, just hanging out!
I don’t think I’m going to get my clothes rack back
What’s that, a box!? We love a good box.

 

Chicken Disneyland

Finally moved the layer hens into the fold, and surrounded them with fence, and draped them with bird netting, so the birds are all confined now, and all safe!  Ahhhhhhhhhh…hhhh….In the morning before opening we moved their coop (that’s a heavy coop full of birds) to the end of the greenhouse, made a yard with snow fence, and then let them out.  These birds have spent the whole summer, if not their whole lives, unconfined, so the first order of business was to keep them entertained and convince them that the party is inside the fence.  I need them to not be fixed on jailbreak, until I can get the bird netting in place too.  Pretty II and III were right away up on the coop, longnecking for a way out.Here you go!  Hay bales, kale, eggs, pumpkins!   They were entertained.  They didn’t know what to focus on.  Then I got the bird netting up, a string from the GH peak to the pine tree anchoring the bird yard, and the sides tied out to the fence. I got a “helper” wading around in the big clump of netting.  Not helping!  Bird netting requires the patience of a saint and is no fun at the best of times, without helpers with talons.Once we had full enclosure, then I could open the GH door and allow contact between the tribes.  The guineas and all the teens were already living in there.

Out come the guineas, right away up on the coop.  They can see the netting though, they know they can’t fly up in it.  No interest in “escape” though, just investigating.  They quickly made a game of running outside and jumping on the coop, and then running back inside the GH.  Last one on the coop’s a rotten egg!

The total peace was remarkable!  I was expecting some squabbling, some frantic fence running, but there was nothing.  The layers took a tour inside the GH and came back out, settling under the pine tree.  The teens came hopping out in their own time and milled around, the guineas found a pile of hay they liked… The great integration was notable for its complete lack of drama.  The layers decided they really like the pine tree, piling up under it in a lazy grooming and sunning bird pile. Inside, the birds are flaking out in their hay piles.  The teen Chantis are just impossibly cute. Both pairs of chicks are alive and well, phew!

Meanwhile, at the other end of the GH, there’s the other yard, but I don’t have netting for that yet.  These birds will be temporarily put inside the GH and this yard blocked off, until I get my netting.  Then there will be a three part chicken world- two covered yards and the GH between, until the snow limits them to only the GH.  That should give them plenty of space to organize themselves in.

The point of all this is to protect them from aerial predators, as I’ve learned the hard way that my chickens start getting struck in daylight in November.  So I have to have them “in” Nov 1, or else.  At night they are in their safe boxes, but the daytime threat has to be managed come November.

The guineas have been suffering already from night attacks, and that’s because they are half wild and roost outside, sometimes in ill advised locations.  I haven’t been able to help them without the GH.

Finally, I’ve got them all safe; I can sleep!It’s really funny how chickens can’t resist a hay bale.

They get so excited.  Stand on it, peck at it, lean on it.   The possibilities seem limited, but put a hay bale in with some birds, and immediately they’ll have it surrounded.

 

 

Livin’ in the greenhouse

Spent the day redoing the emergency windstorm work to rights (baseboard, bolts, adjusting all plastic- no small job), and installing everyone in the greenhouse.  Alas, one tiny guinea chick was found dead in the morning, possibly of exposure.  It was cold, but still – odd to keel over in the GH, mom right there.

The two broody Silkie hens co-hatched two chicks.  What with all the competition and apartment swapping, there is no apparent parentage of the two new chicks.  Even the hens don’t seem to be clear.  I installed both of them in the chickery with a broody box and new eggs.  This is for their comfort, for protection from the amorous roosters (How I have longed for you!), and the teenagers who pile in at night.  No one wants teenagers around, even your own.

Broody hens are so funny, they act like it’s Christmas when you give them eggs.  Eggs?!  You shouldn’t have!  Cluck cluck cluck, and they settle right on, like they’re slipping into a warm bath.She’s been sitting on eggs more than a month, and she’s still thrilled about it.

The cohabitation seems to be great for the chicks.  One mom seems pretty into mothering, but the chicks can go in the box anytime to second mom for a warming, which they do.   I think I’ll have a nap with you now.Especially when Mom A is getting down in the dirt bath.  We’ll leave you to it.  We’ll be in here.They all pile in the box at night.  TOO cute!

Before I took their box away, the teens were playing house in it:

A box? Let’s all get in!

The guinea chicks are so tiny, smaller than the Silkie chicks, perfectly camouflaged, and slippery.  After the morning death, I was keeping a close eye and an ear open for their car alarm cheeping, and sure enough, one slipped under the baseboard.  There it is outside on the wrong side of the plastic.  Mom tried to give me a good thumping through the plastic.

The greenhouse is chaotic and messy.  I strew hay bales around for them to distribute, make it less of a mud hole.  They love a good hay bale.

Here we have a guinea perching on the chickery, all the teens, Silkies and Chantis, chilling on the hay bales, and the Oreos, now big grown birds, visiting.
From the other direction. One teen perching, and the guineas, Hey, that’s OUR clothesrack.

It was a stressful day, because it was beautiful outside, and all the teens were determined to get outside in it, and were sneaky and extremely clever about slipping out behind me.  I’d herd two back in and three would come shooting out.  But there were no attacks, and I got everyone back in the GH eventually.

Late in the day, Mama got out with her chicks!  I didn’t see how.  The guineas all seemed to be fixing to roost at large, so it was time for another chicknapping.

Now with only two:(
Mom’s stopping for a snack on her way back in

Then all the other guineas trooped in.

Mama found a real nice spot in the corner of the bales to bed down.She has a very interested observer.

Almost all safe now.

Windstorm

The day after the greenhouse move, with the baseboard incompletely secured, I went pressing apples for the day, feeling pleasantly assured that the worst was all done, and that I could get to the finishing touches the next day.

At night I got a phone call: “Have you heard that we’re supposed to get 90km/h winds tomorrow?  I was thinking of you and your greenhouse….”  Closely followed by, “Should I come and help you?” because this friend is that thoughtful and kind.

The winds rose in the night, and by first light, the endwalls were already pushed off the base, framing pulled apart, the bottom edges of all the plastic were free, and losing the greenhouse completely seemed rather imminent.

In the next two hours, the winds rose further, the rain started sheeting down, one of the corners tore completely loose, our friend showed up at the perfect time, and we gained the structure back, securing it bit by bit to get through the storm.

I don’t think we ever did get 90kmh gusts, although parts of NS got up to 130.  In the moment it was a panic action, doing what most needs to be done.  We were soaked and struggling with everything wet and muddy and fighting against us.  In retrospect, if the wind had continued to go up instead of pausing and then abating, as it did, or if help had not come, the whole thing could very easily have tugged itself free and gone for a sail.

In the midst of it all, chicks!

The telltale shell!  She’s got a chick in there:)

And outside, I discovered the squad of guineas huddled around the base of the walnut tree.  Among them, three tiny chicks!

I discovered the hen setting, with a couple hatchlings, a few days ago (Yay, I thought she was dead!).  They stay on the nest a couple days before the mom and chicks rejoin the flock.  But what a day to join the flock!

I kidnapped her chicks.  She was soaked and looked miserable, and didn’t have much fight in her when I snatched them up.Then I brought them inside and used them to bait their mother into the greenhouse.  It took a little bit.  The chicks were just fine with being held – cozy! so I had to massage them to make them cheep, and then mom would bristle up, try to locate them, and charge.

Once she was in, she was like hmm, ok, it’s dry in here.  Perhaps I’ll stay. There’s food.

The little brown chicks are so small and brown they are hard to see in the mud.

Family portrait!  All the Silkie chicks and the Chanticleer chicks, and a hen, all in the dismal mud hole of the greenhouse.  With the multipurpose clothes rack.All of them are checking out the newcomer.  Who’s that!? Happily, all the rest of the guineas came into the greenhouse voluntarily at night, because mom was in there.   Well, sort of.They’re on the boards nailed up to keep the doors on. I had to tap a couple on the tail to make them jump down.  I need to close the door now guys. 

Training coop subdivision

Guinea update:  they did all survive the night, and again skipped dinner (thus not giving me the opportunity to attempt to trap them again) and went to roost where they did night before last, which they also survived.  So I’m just moving the GH as fast as I can to put them in it.

It will still take awhile.  I’m interested to see whether it will take longer to take it down and then put it up again than it did for me to put it up in the first place.  If it were a house, then it’s always faster to just build a new one.  I’m thinking the GH could be faster to move than it was to build new, but we shall see.  I’m also weaker and less healthy than I was the first time.

I was in there half the day ripping it out, which meant a party of epic magnitude for the young chickens that live in there, the kegger that will not be forgot.

They were always underfoot, interested in the volume of green mass I was dropping to the ground, and the climbing and rummaging and scratching was such as had never been seen before.  So good the room was mostly silent, with all the chicks individually occupied throughout.  They know every inch of the GH, it is their whole world, so change must be very interesting to them.

Come dusk, I was still working, so I got to see the goings in.   I’ve been stuffing the chicks in the coop every night, and although there’s plenty of room, they squabble all night.  What the?

So I tried something new.  I tacked up cardboard, dividing the coop into apartment A and B, and I put a hen in each one.  One (mud head) is legitimately broody, I can’t tell if the other one is for real, but she’s acting as if.

Apartment A
Apartment B (true broody)

As it got dark, the Chanticleer chicks went to bed first, and they all came along one at a time, long-necking and then hopping up in with Mom.

Is that Mom in there?

Or two at a time.

Is it A or B?

This one chose wrong. And tentatively settled in.

And then, RRTROWWR!  She came bursting out, having been forcibly ejected by the resident hen.  So she‘s been the nighttime rabblerouser; she doesn’t like the chicks of another colour.

Let me try this again.  Is it door #2?
Don’t make the same mistake I did.

The Chanticleers eventually all loaded in, to the right apartment.It’s very cozy in there.  I don’t know how they do it.

That left the Silkies out, who much later started to think about bed, and went trouping around, looking like they might consider the possibility that they might sleep somewhere other than a pile in the corner.

I spent some time trying to marshal them towards the coop, and grabbed a couple and tossed them into Apt A, but they kept missing it, and going around it, then going under it, and a few hopped in on their own, yay!  Definite progress.

But I could’ve almost sworn I saw a white one dart into Apt B, which is already suffering overcrowding.  I groped around but couldn’t find her, until I took a picture.Aha!  Lower right, the couchsurfer.

I have some confidence that they will all go to bed tomorrow, or definitely the next night.  Unless the hens decide to switch apartments.

worry

Loungey pigs.  They’ve been rooting well, but sort of avoiding the big rooty area in the middle that I need them to work, asap.  She’s digging herself a hole so deep she’s almost below grade now.I closed the small coop a touch too early.  There was a latecomer.

Excuse me!

I dropped the ramp again and du du du – trotted right up!

That’s better!

The guineas are killing me (poor choice of words).  They are getting picked off and I can’t help them.  The downside of being wild and independent.  There was an owl picked one off the GH;  I knew lining up on the GH was a bad idea, but I thought if they slept on the coop, right by the wall of the GH, they’d be ok.  Nope.  And since, they’ve been moving around in the forest, because they don’t return to any roost proven not safe.  They were roosting in a big apple tree, which I thought was a great choice, nice safe spot, and it was for a few days.  But last night there was another event, and I didn’t get a chance to count them today.

Meanwhile I’ve been trying to make a safe spot.  I sewed together two widths of bird netting to make a strip wide enough, and draped a big canopy off the end of the GH.  I set it up with electric fence at the base, they went in, I closed it up, and found that guineas slip handily right through the electric fence.  Then I was after deer fence, and the co-op said they had some, until we went to buy it and they didn’t.  Then I finally get some (very attractive orange) snow fence tonight, get it all set up, feel good about it, and the guineas choose to skip dinner.

T-minus one week to move the GH and get all the birds in for good.