Tag Archives: dust bath

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.

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.

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.

April summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…

 

The upside of drought

We’ve had an epic atypical drought this year in Nova Scotia this year.  Especially inland where we are.  The coasts have had more rain. We have had about 25mm total from May through August.

Everything is parched.  Forest fires are raging in the area, wells are running dry, and the impact on agriculture is making the news.

The ground is dry, cracking, and powdery anywhere it doesn’t have a vegetal cover.  Wind blows skirls of dust across the ground.

However, these are ideal conditions for chicken bathing.

20160803_102807I come around the corner and find the rooster indulging.  He’s doesn’t usually get caught in the bath.20160803_102812

He just looked at me, and declined to lift his Henry VIII body out of his dust bowl.20160803_102944

 

 

The Chick Cycle, and Hen-in-a-box

First comes the broody hen.  Usually I find her staunchly defending her post on at least twenty eggs, spread out like a feather pancake futilely trying to cover them all.

They have no restraint. That’s why she goes in the box.  I let her keep seven or eight eggs, and make up a bunk with hay and a glass of water and a dish of food.  At times I have three boxes all lined up. 20160620_072455In there each hen “sleeps” in her broody trance uninterrupted except for getting her vittles refreshed.

Then they hatch.  Immediately, I move the whole family and unhatched eggs into a fresh box.  That broody box has all poop and spilled feed and water under the hay, so they need a clean box to start life in.  I find it takes two days usually for all the birds to hatch, and the chicks take it easy those first couple days, spending their time dozing under mom, transitioning to life outside the shell.

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Then the chicks decide to pop out from underwing, and start hopping around, jumping in the water and stuff.  They get another day or two in a more sizable box, with room to run around and spill all the food.  Sometimes the hen is still sitting on an egg, but she will very soon give it up and start mothering.

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Next they go into the indoor playpen, which is just a big box opened up against the screen door for ventilation, and arranged on the greenhouse floor, which is dirt, of course, and a layer of wood chips.  Now the mom will start to teach chicken life skills.  20160723_070037Scratching, drinking.  20160723_06581420160723_065756The beak sweep, the beak wipe.20160704_072546

And of course, the dust bathing.

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20160723_06590220160723_065953 20160723_065922She can see the world out there through the screen door.

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After a few days in the playpen, then they all go in the chickery.

20160728_095915 20160728_095921 Whoohoo!  Grass!  This is a frabjous day.  20160728_095948

At night, I have to lift all the chicks and mom into a box and shut them in the greenhouse overnight, for safety.  In the morning, I carry a cheeping box back outside and empty it into the chickery.

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Hey!

This hen thinks I’ve slept in too long, and it’s high time that they get let outside.

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Hey!!

 

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HEY!

Eventually, after a week, two, or more, or single parenting, the family will be put into Silkieland with the main flock. 20160720_142501 I have to say, it’s working great.  Waiting until the chicks are older to put them in the coop avoids the daily in and out woes.  Their little chicken brains are developed enough after the chickery daycare  to learn how to go in and out quite rapidly.

I love what you’ve done with the anthill…

This used to be a big round anthill, like a grass Ms. Muffet's tuffet.
This used to be a big round anthill, like a grass Ms. Muffet’s tuffet.
Now it looks like a bowl because of this.
Now it looks like a bowl because of this.
It's a big party, a group bathing affair.
It’s a big party, a group bathing affair.

The birds are just thrilled to be out of the greenhouse and are celebrating hard, on the anthill. Sometimes the rooster stands on top and thinks he’s even more important.

Two days later, nearly no remnants of anthill.
Two days later, nearly no remnants of anthill.