Tag Archives: chickens

Ever have one of those days?

Cream Puff is just giving up on life.

Really, it’s just a bright sunny day, so it got tropical in the greenhouse.It was the first time I put the screen door on.  The birds will be outside very soon.

Some of the birds were relaxing in the shade of the coops or behind hay bales. Others were making hay while the sun shines. The girl’s fort was mixed between shade and sun basking.Chickenland is a very relaxed place on a sunny afternoon.  Everyone is restful, chill, quiet, in a sort of dreamy zone.  Moving slow, and ready to sink down into a doze at any moment.

And then there’s Cream Puff, who either got so relaxed she just tipped over, or is tinkering with her rubber chicken impression.  I about died laughing.

Cowcheeks

Cheeks is eating hay.   Consuming it, like a cow.    I got some new hay bales and she’s up on one, picking it apart and eating the hay.  Like spaghetti. You got a problem with me eating hay?!  I didn’t think so.

Cheeks has turned out to be a bit bossy, and quite a loner.  She doesn’t have a little hen clique; not that I’m sure how important that is to chicken mental health. I was hoping that she would make friends with Puffcheeks, one of her kind and a distant relation.  But not so far.  Puffcheeks has been sticking to the Barred Rocks she knows.

It appears that Phillippe Petit came out on top, as he is still playing guardian to the new girls.  Particularly pompously, I might add.  He’s very important now.  It’s good to see him food clucking and surveying his domain, though.  I like him and want him to turn out well.

Perching hour

Perching hour is the peaceful time in the afternoon, when the birds are in siesta.  Giving those feathers a good going over, generally finding a high place to perch, on all available surfaces,or a nice handle to grip. Trying out the different perching options around the room. Finding their crew, or clique,  or dropping into sleep among friends. It’s a sweet time,  all the chickens napping, and you can see the groups of friends that have formed – across breeds and not always who you’d expect; the roosters wandering around making halfhearted passes at the hens and getting ignored.

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.

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).

Melons and hens

I got a few watermelons this year, that was exciting.  Yellow flesh and pink flesh melons. Watermelons before:

And after:And a little later:The chickens love their melons.

Speaking of melons – a bucket of cucamelons.  Weird little things, supposed gourmet items, exTREMEly productive. They are starting to fall off in the GH, raining like hail.  To the pigs, as usual.

A rubber egg, almost perfectly intact.That won’t last long

What?

The hens are enthusiastically emptying out the bucket of greens.  Chard and green cabbage yes, celery and red cabbage, no thanks. They have to reach down a bit farther. 

tiptoes

This little beast, the Deputy, lower right, thinks he’s the big king now.Look at all those ladies he’s managing.  This is the second in command Silkie rooster, who has recently decided to organize the house hens – the layer hens who hang around our house, mooching and sunning in the paths.  Now he thinks he’s a big boss.  Some of them even let him mate them, which is truly awkward.  He’s so small, sometimes he tips over and falls off of them.  If hens could roll their eyes.

The Colonel concerns himself with his own breed, and the young Ameracuana roos that are coming up haven’t come into their oats yet and are still meek.

 

Tarzan chicks

Three feet off the ground!  A hen-pecked tomato three feet off the ground in the greenhouse.   Couldn’t have anything to do with this little clown:

He/she appears to be the resident vine climbing expert.

I have plenty of tomatoes to spare for them to supplement their diets with.  And they don’t need to reach so high to get them, either.

 

Happy Thanksgiving yesterday!

Goldilocks days

These are my favorite days of fall – not too hot, but not too cold.  The bugs are gone and the ticks are long finished.  We’ve been warned, by the frost, that winter is coming, but then there are lovely “gift” days of perfect, peaceful weather.  It feels like it should be time to rest, peruse, hang out in the hammock and enjoy summer taking her last breaths.  But it never is.  September and October are always the worst months of the year for me, and I’m panicking and faltering under the crush of things that have to get done, so that everyone and everything will be ok for the winter.  I’d like to change that.  Possibly if there was only harvest to be done, it might be manageable.

The chickens don’t have that problem.  It’s not as hot as it was in the summer, but they are still flopped out in their dust baths and sunny patches all afternoon.  HW says “there’s chickens strewn about all along the path.”  They aren’t inclined to move, once they get into their dirt bath doze.  Sitting chicken‘s posture seems to be improving, by the way.  She’s in the pile.

They especially love this spot, because I threw a pile of dead branches there, that just happen to have perfect chicken space underneath, so they feel nice and safe.
Even the nervous Blondies are chilling out by the path.
Can’t see us, we’re under branches!
Even the uptight guineas are unusually…flat.

No peep

The Blondies are losing their peep.  They’re starting to make different sounds.  Not yet grownup sounds, just different.   Sometimes it sounds like there’s a duck around.

There’s two males:(  The darkest one has just developed faster, showing a comb and being bossy.  But I caught the two of them head-bobbing at each other – the tell-tale rooster reveal.

They are pretty fully integrated into the house mooching chicken club now (the layers).  Flapping into the woods at any fast movements.  Run away!

Somebody laid their first  egg!  Size of a quarter.

Or else it´s a last gasp.

Here’s the baby bunny, bellied up to the food dish.  I haven’t seen it for a few days and it’s grown.  Never see any adult rabbits near it.  Cute little thing, loping, all long legs like a puppy, about the size of a can of beans.

Take a picture, though, and it looks like a normal, grownup rabbit.

Sunbathing and pig lunch

It´s a nice hot day, so the chickens decided to flake out in the path.These are the Famous Five, the house moochers.  They just kind of tip over like beached boats, and stick out a wing.

Even Jean Jacket‘s in there.

Or they´ll find some shade where they can get it.

Even a Brahma is lounging.I wanted to not get these pigs stuck on a 3x/day feeding schedule so it was possible to leave for the day, so they get their piggy rations morning and night, but to tide them over, they also get a 5 gal bucket of apples every day, or whatever fruit/scraps/vegetables (It’s a good time of year to be a pig).

Usually, there are several apples left over come supper time.  If there are no apples, then I know they had a big day, and they’re legitimately hungry for dinner.Today they got turnips and kale too, and happily, they loved the kale, eating it first.  I wasn’t sure after the cucumbers. They stand on it to rip a piece off with their mouths, like they’ve done it before.

These pigs have the craziest eyebrows! They’re wild Grandpa Wizard eyebrows, like visors.

So cute!

 

Blueberries!?

I was so pleased and surprised to find actual blueberries!  We have a fair number of blueberry plants, that are besieged by field weeds, but besides that, I’ve never beaten a chicken to a blueberry.  They clean any intrepid berry off long before they reach blue.

These berries are on the chicken-less far side of the former pasture, but the wild bird population is very strong too, so it’s a pleasant surprise to find a few ripe berries of my own!  There were three whole plants with blue berries!

I was at a friend’s this week picking berries in a lush, abundant field.  He doesn’t have chickens.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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:

 

 

 

 

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 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.

Rare sighting: the bathing chicken

At the beginning of the winter when the chickens were first incarcerated in the greenhouse for the season, we prepared some bird baths.

Inspired by my neighbour, who brings warm (room temperature) sand from her house to the hen house (hot bath!), I put a bunch of mud on the woodstove to heat up.

I shoveled the mud out of a couple of popular summer-time hen bathing holes, where, when it wasn’t soaking wet, it was fine dust.  The old style metal crisper trays were perfect for heating on the wood stove.

It took days to dehydrate the dirt.  It cracked like the desert, made little popping volcano vents, and then we’d break it up and cook it some more.  HW stirred it assiduously,  raving about how much those lucky birds were going to enjoy these baths, and pronouncing it not yet ready, day after day.

Finally, the bird baths- heavy with warm, finely stirred, premium dirt- went out to the greenhouse.   I was looking forward to seeing the birds enjoy them, too, probably in the lazy, sunny, afternoon.  I expected to hear excited clucking, to find two hens and the oversized rooster jammed in one bin at once and overflowing the sides, legs sticking out in odd directions….

and I never saw them.  Not one single solitary sighting of a chicken getting her dirt bath on.

They were definitely using it.   They were using it with vigour.  There was a dirt radius around each bin.  Feathers in the dirt.  Week by week, the level in each bin went down.  Every time a chicken bathes, she covers herself thoroughly with dirt, then gets up, walks out, and shakes herself off like a dog, making a Pigpen puff of dust.  This slowly erodes the dirt capital.

Months passed.  Then last week, I caught a brown hen in the bath!  I crept back from the door, went for my camera, and of course, she was finished her ablutions  by the time I got back with it.  One sighting in months – the odds were poor that I’d ever catch another.

But I did!  I didn’t waste time going for my camera but used my damaged phone – a sighting!

Seen as though in a dream…

 

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.

Play structure day

It was rearranging time again in the greenhouse, which is a big party for all the birds.

First their hay bale play structure was on the north side of the greenhouse, now it’s going to the south. The bales are really disintegrating now, but that’s ok.  They don’t have to last much longer.

Funny, the most action is not where I’m removing the hay bales from, but where I’m putting them.  There’s a bale here now where formerly there was not?  Fascinating!img_5384

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One hay bale

Immediately they have to stand all over it and discuss.

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Three hay bales

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Look how high the snow is outside!

Now they’re starting to get interested in what’s exposed on the other side of the room.

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She knows what’s good

 

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All done!

I love the rooster mincing across the high wire.  And the guinea on the right.

As usual, the layers tired of the gym and the Silkies came and established their clubhouse.  img_5394

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Snow’s even higher on the non-sun side.

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?

Shifting play structures

I moved the haybale play structure from its former location in the south corner of the greenhouse…

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…to the opposite side of the greenhouse.

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Long necks- everyone is curious

I have about 9 bales left, that are very dry and falling apart, that I am cycling through the coops as bedding and then to the garden for mulch.  img_4595While stored in the greenhouse, the bales  are providing caves, entertainment, and vantage points for the bored birds.  And carbon for the ground.

I dropped one unstrung bale into the middle of the room.  There’s little they like more than to take apart a bale of hay.  The normally uptight guineas, in a rare moment of repose, used it to cash out in the sunshine, and fell mercifully silent for a good hour.

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The haybale move –my every move closely monitored by short attendants – served two purposes.  The sitting haybales had kept a big patch of dirt wet and scratchable, so each bale I moved, the hens rushed in behind me to dig. It’s fun to work among the hens, them all up in my business, making interested noises, having their own dramas.

The new play structure was a novelty, therefore highly entertaining to explore.

You know when something is overwhelmingly interesting when ALL the birds fall silent.  They’re that busy.  Too absorbed to talk about it, to make announcements. Then little burbles of speculation.

All three of the resident breeds explored the new apparatus, hopping up and over it and sidestepping along the high poles, but – I didn’t anticipate this- the Silkies wholly claimed it as their own.

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Tentative inspection
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Heads down, butts up. At least three days worth of fascination in the former location.

Three dead mice were unearthed, precipitating the inevitable lively mouse run.

img_5064After a thorough inspection and finding it pleasing, the Silkie tribe moved in en masse… img_5057

and settled in for some hard lounging.

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I’m going to move the bales at least once more, and I expect similar excitement and results.  In return they will thoroughly distribute a mulch layer in the greenhouse for me.

 

 

Great White Flakes

Outside the snow is falling heavy in thick white flakes.  5-10 cm on its way.  Parts of New Brunswick are still without power, eight days after an ice storm that only grazed Nova Scotia.

img_5188It made the trees glassy, bent them to thump on the windows, and pruned  branches that fell to clutter our paths.

Inside, the hair band is posing:img_5189

The big birds are sharing a snack of kale.img_5156

This one has figured out how to stand on the kale and rip it apart.  As opposed to beating it on the ground.  img_5216And a novelty snow cone ball splat.  There’s a few that love eating snow and ice.  I know not why.  img_5021

Egg production is up, and it’s cozy in the greenhouse, but colder temps are coming…