I brought a hay bale for the pigs, now the nights are getting colder. I’m confident that they’ll make their own bed out of it. They were quite excited with the novelty, and as usual What are you doing in our house?Pancakes getting high centered on the bale was especially funny.
On the way to Pigland…
I thought I’d get a quick pic of the barrow and bale, fall leaves everywhere, maybe it might turn out the way it actually looked, but there was a sudden ambush:
The chickens, as usual, are all up in your business, no matter what it is.
HW busted three of them in the house! Which I really wish I’d seen. The screen door was snapped ajar, and two chickens were (reportedly), inside rummaging in the pile of beans I have out on newspaper on the floor drying, the third was posted lookout in the bootka. Oh shit, there he is! Quick, grab all the beans you can!
These pigs are going to be spoiled (well, in a way-they’ll be sleeping outside), but they’re going to get hot meals. Cooked potatoes kept warm on the woodstove all night with hard feed, or some hot water and milk over meal.
After all, who wants to dig into a cold bowl of cereal on a sub-zero morning? Not me.
This is the best time to have a pig, there’s so much food. Potatoes and squash and apples and greens, loads of waste veggies. Between the pigs and the birds, nothing gets wasted. The pigs get the chicken food fines, the chickens pre-graze the pig lunches:
The pig lunch buckets get lined up a few days ahead. I pick up a wheelbarrow load of apples at a time, and the garden greens day before usually, so the chickens get first crack at the buffet. They don’t hold back. Sometimes they’re in a mood and clean up on the kale, sometimes not. They also choose a few apples and pull them out of the bucket to eat.
I went out to feed the pigs lunch, and it was quiet.
They are usually oinking with impatience; they have loudly ticking and highly accurate food clocks. I walked over to shut off the fencer, and I didn’t see pigs anywhere.
I just moved them yesterday, the fence was sound, did they seriously make a jail break? F#$%!
I started walking again and Oink! I heard a little grunt.
I stared into their enclosure. Wait, is that? What? No way! There’s a pig in there?
No, there was two pigs in there. They had burrowed under a pile of branches, and were barely, barely discernible in the pile of brush. Totally concealed.
Any reason for this gilly-suit behaviour? Unknown.
When I started walking away, they came snorting out, shaking off the branches, scampering out oinking joyously. I suspect it was purely a game. I doubt it was comfortable. I’ve never seen pigs dig their way under a brush pile. I think I just got pig-pranked.
Let’s see if she can find us here. Bet she can’t! Hold still! She doesn’t see us! You’d better oink! No, you oink! She’s walking away, doesn’t see us, hahaha! Oink! She still can’t see us and I oinked, hahaha, she’s looking right at us! Haha, oh, we got you good!
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.
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.
Mama Silkie I completed hatching out her eggs for a grand total of seven little Silkie chicks, three white and four brown. They are at liberty in the greenhouse but haven’t gone more than a couple feet from the box.
A restorative friend visit and blueberry pick- 10# of fat blueberries that the piglets and chickens will be ecstatic to have a little taste of.
The promise of rain! The smell is light relief in the air.
Then the guineas decided to level up.
While I was taking pictures of these clowns, a BAT! came flapping around. 100% bat! It was flying right over my head to hoover up the bugs that I was attracting and I saw the whole bat silhouette against the sky (much clearer than my camera saw it). It seems like the bats might be on their way back from the brink!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
There´s been a full scale cooporate takeover. The Colonel has moved in, and brought his ladies with him.
There´s been a couple Silkie hens that decisively moved in with the big girls weeks ago, but HW noticed the Colonel exiting the layer coop in the morning, and told me he suspected a relocation.
I think, because of the rain the last few days, that the Silkies couldn´t be bothered to walk the 40 feet back to their own coop, and just went up the proximate ramp.
The flocks hang out surprisingly intimately all day, piled up in the same dirt bowls, eating together, laying eggs in each other´s coops, and when it rains, huddled shoulder to shoulder under the nearest coop with their shoulders hunched up (the guineas too). I LOVE this! I´m so happy they get along.
I´m over the moon that since the integration of the flocks this winter and their coexistence in the greenhouse, that I can retire the tiresome, rickety Silkie un-“tractor”, and all the birds are fully free again. What they do with their freedom is sometimes unexpected, and usually entertaining.
Sometimes a name alights on a being like a hawk landing on a fencepost. Here to stay. The rooster formerly known as Snowball (we do our best, until their real name arrives), is now irrevocably, unquestionably, the Colonel.
The Colonel is the Big Boss of All the Chickens around here, ruthlessly laying down the law and keeping Jacques in line (that´s the big Copper Maran rooster at the back of the coop), despite Jacques being about 5 times his size. This was very unexpected.
Any human visitors think it´s absolutely hilarious when I point out the big boss. They point; that guy? The pint sized pompom? That big rooster is scared of HIM? No way! Then they are usually treated to an exhibition – the Colonel marching authoritatively towards the giant, showy rooster who dared to come too close, and Jacques the Giant hastily looking for somewhere else to be.
Jacques gets no respect. The Colonel keeps him looking over his shoulder. HW calls him a punk. He´s still growing into his leadership role, I think. He´s pretty good with his hens, unselfish and a food announcer; they like him, but he can´t count, and doesn´t organize them very well; they scatter, and scattering is not good for chicken longevity. Also, he attacks me daily. I whack him with sticks and throw water on him; he has a short memory. The Colonel doesn´t hesitate to rescue me, which is nice, but feels like the wrong order of things.
The Colonel keeps track of eleven Silkie hens, and they typically flow in a big group without stragglers (It´s awesome to observe chickens in as free a state as possible- they have a culture, and it evolves; they are in charge, and I serve them, with shelter, food, and evening security lockup). The Colonel has one young protege, a blond rooster that rolls with the big flock, but there are four more roosters that are exiles and just huddle at a distance. These poor roosters are due for rehoming – they´re on Kijiji. They´re quite gorgeous, and they´ll make great rooster-leaders if they get a chance.
The oinkers are growing! They still have long legs, and act like dogs in ways. They stretch first thing out of bed, they jump around when they’re excited, and they love to run.
Seeing how much they love to run makes me sad about all the pigs that are confined in quarters barely large enough for them to turn around, where their only function is to eat and grow fat. Clearly lethargy is not their natural state.
They love a good sprint. They celebrate the coming of food by an exuberant oinking lap around their enclosure, usually with a figure eight through and around their house. They’re very athletic pigs.
HW loves the pigs (he doesn’t seem to have any conflict with adoring them and having to kill them later). He’s disappointed when he comes home from work and I’ve already fed them (so I tend to wait). Either way, he visits them while he’s still in his work clothes, and then he comes in saying something like “Those oinkers are funny! I was sitting in their house with them and…”
You were what?
He’s been actively trying to tame them. We can do anything to them while they’re eating; Spots tolerates HW petting her at other times, but A.P. won’t stand for it. He also snorts at them, although I’ve told him he’s probably saying something insulting in their language. They love it though, they immediately get louder and oink back when HW comes down the trail, snorting. He’s kind of good at it.
Yesterday his story was: “I was out there chasing those oinkers around… ” (You were what?!) “They love it! They know that it´s play, because as soon as I stop, they run up to me. But they LOVE to run. Then when I left I looked back and one pig was flopped out on the ground, legs out – no, not in their house, just in the mud – then she got up, walked in a circle, and flopped down again – she was all tuckered out!”
So HW plays games with the pigs too. I haven’t even witnessed him sitting in their house or playing chase, let alone when I had a camera. But I can hope.
The introduction of two bowls (recycling the dog bowls):
It worked perfectly, exactly like I expected.
Oh, you’ve got something good over there? I wants it.
One pig gets jealous and pushes the other off her bowl.
Displaced pig coolly walks around to the vacant bowl.
Both are eating constantly, but quite sure the other bowl is better.
I have a long-running ad on Kijiji to divest of Silkie roosters, rather than axe them, and sometimes I sell hens and eggs. Keeping the flock manageable.
I think it´s simply hilarious to put them in EGGS boxes. No one else thinks it’s quite so funny. “It’s like the chicken and the eggs…which came first? The eggs are going to come out of the box, but not right away?… Oh never mind”. Also it´s like the Boxtrolls.
Anyway, two hens went for a long drive (they made hardly a peep), and got a major lifestyle upgrade. I got a text late in the day reporting that the hens had loved every minute of a shampoo and warm blowdry (I bet they did. I bet they’re simply gawgeous. ), and they also enjoy being held and petted. We’re not on the farm any more, Dorothy. They’re probably hoping I forget to pick them up from this spa weekend. It´s the bouff I´ve always dreamed of! I’ve always wanted a good blowout. I can´t even imagine how fluffy they got.
I did choose two of the shyest, most anxious and retiring chickens, because I had a feeling they were going somewhere to be pets, and they could appreciate the lifestyle upgrade. I didn’t know it was going to be a spa package upgrade.
Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you: purse chickens.
I dumped the pigs’ muddy water out into a handy trench they´d dug right by their house. I am so grateful that they have not yet learned how joyous it is to dump their water out themselves, at which point we have to take measures to prevent them from doing it. So far they´ve been very restrained and let us do it for them.
Each pig took a jubilant flop into the mud, one side, the other, and then Hey it´s my turn, the other pig.
They didn´t linger. They came up evenly coated with mud, glistening except for one dry strip down the middle of the back, indistinguishable from the other. No socks, no blazes. Just mud.
By the time I got my camera, they had moved on to other activities, like scratching on a cutoff tree.
The piglets are settling in, and getting a little friendlier.
They are kind of like dogs in some ways. They stretch out their back legs behind them when they first get up, wag their tails, enjoy a good sprint, even do some barking, which sounds like whooping cough.
These pigs are so dynamic, I can’t believe the difference from the 2014 pink pigs. They are not lazy or laidback. They express themselves with a good back and forth sprint the length of their fence, whenever we come out with their food, or a treat. They´re deep into rooting already, and don´t sleep in. They´re up with the chickens.
AP (“my pig”) is pushy (the one with a blaze). AP is bolder. Spots, or Spotty, has more white on her face – her blaze is patchy. She also has white lower eyelashes on her right eye.
They have a big splashy go at the dog bowl.
They have a big wrestle over it, but it seems to come out equal, so we haven´t introduced a second bowl yet.
Joinup! First contact, helped by the prospect of some milk:)
They’ve mastered the art of “looking hungry”, learned that we are the food, and have made a new routine of excited oinking and running around when we come with the scoop. They even approach! I throw the food – (OMG, run away!) they sprint around, and then saunter back to eat. They no longer try to run through the fence, but pull up an inch away.
I was taking pictures through the fence and they came so close (Is that a snack?) I thought they’d touch it. Cute!
They bury themselves in the hay in their palace, sometimes ears showing, sometimes a black back, sometimes nothing.
Then when we come down the trail, they burst up out of bed, look out, and emerge with straw all over their face. Or just the ears pop up, a sentry. Early-warning snack detector.
Once I couldn’t see them at all from outside the fence, and sure they were gone, I started looking for a breach in the fence. Then Boufff! the hay exploded and two pig heads popped up. I went in to fix up their bed (Run away!), but one pig couldn’t resist coming back to see what I was doing in their house. Messing up their bed, obviously. We had it perfect!
They’ve started to tear apart the intact bales that form their windblock/bed. It was a matter of time. We go in and pile the hay back in bed that they’ve pushed out, they rearrange it again. Long as they’re cozy. It’s still cold at night.
I moved the haybale play structure from its former location in the south corner of the greenhouse…
…to the opposite side of the greenhouse.
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. While 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.
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.
Three dead mice were unearthed, precipitating the inevitable lively mouse run.
After a thorough inspection and finding it pleasing, the Silkie tribe moved in en masse…
and settled in for some hard lounging.
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.
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.
It 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:
The big birds are sharing a snack of kale.
This one has figured out how to stand on the kale and rip it apart. As opposed to beating it on the ground. And a novelty snow coneball splat. There’s a few that love eating snow and ice. I know not why.
Egg production is up, and it’s cozy in the greenhouse, but colder temps are coming…
Actually he spent most of his first day trying to avoid them. They were following him everywhere, grooming his ruff, and generally crowding him. The girls couldn’t get enough of him and he just wanted to figure out where he was.
They were just determined to follow him around.
He is very handsome as described, with his Copper Maran feathered feet.
He got some peace on the roof of the coop.
We were checking on him frequently during the first day, not knowing whether there would be a bloodbath (there wasn’t). Once we both went to the GH and he wasn’t there. We looked all over, under boxes, in the corners. He wasn’t even in the coop. With nowhere left to look, I lifted the lid on the Silkie coop, saying “Well he can’t be in here!” He was. He was in the corner of the coop with one Silkie hen on the other side, probably there to lay an egg. I guess the hens really got out of control.
He’s like a member of a royal court, with breeches, buckled shoes, and maybe a rapier.
I thought I might call him Jacques, since when I was driving him home I couldn’t remember any lullabies but Frére Jacques. Over and over and over… But I’m not sure it fits.
Things have settled down since the first day. He started doing his job, announcing food discoveries and doing a bit of dancing.
He crows a lot. He’s got a deep voice. And I’ve seen him mating a leghorn. But I’ve seen more unconsummated high-speed chases around the greenhouse.
Then the Silkie rooster, one third his size, automatically responds to the sounds of a screaming, running hen. He in his white pint-size majesty comes lumbering over silently, looks at “Jacques”, and Jacques runs off to hide behind something. Very funny. I’m real glad that they don’t fight at all, but also hoping that this guy will get a bit less timid over time.
He likes to be up high. On the bales, or the coop, or…
I was standing in the middle of the GH, bent over at the waist to knock some persistent ice out of a water fount. There was some warning flapping behind me, and the new roo flew up and landed on my back. It was a nice shelf. The times I’m not carrying a camera! When I finished laughing, and messing with the fount, I transferred him to my arm, where he contentedly settled down on my elbow as if to stay a while. He’s a big heavy bird. Friendly though.
I can’t believe it but I’m SO happy. ALL MY BIRDS ARE GETTING ALONG! The one silver lining to the loss of my big rooster is that I don’t have to segregate my birds. Two winters I’ve attempted to divide the greenhouse into two territories, Silkieland and Layerland. I say attempted because there were always breaches no matter what I tried.
First there were the guineas, with the GH all to themselves.
Then there were the two Silkie moms and their nine chicks between them, who got to stay in the greenhouse mostly because of inclement weather.
Then I moved in the layer coop, the day after the rooster was killed. The Silkies had the yard outside for a week of lovely weather, from whence they could see inside through the screen door.
Next I opened the door dividing the flocks, and waited to see what would happen. A few red hens popped out, looked around, ate some grass, and went back in. Hey, the guineas came outside, flew over the fence, and were walking around the other door looking confused. The Silkies did not drift into the greenhouse.
The next morning, the Silkie rooster came barrelling inside when I opened the layer coop. The reason: one of his hens is sleeping in the wrong coop. He chased her a merry race and taught her a lesson, and then raced back outside, where the other rooster was taking advantage of his absence to get some. Life’s hectic for Snowball. He’s got a lot of responsibilities.
They did not integrate on their own until, due to a bad forecast, we lifted the Silkie coop into the GH. These long-suffering coops (Oh, they’ll last a year) are still enduring, still doing their job.
And then, miracles! they all just … got along. The layers drink side by side with the guineas, and the chicks are all up in the middle of everything, as they always have been. Infants of any species seem to get big tolerance passes. They can poop anywhere they like and be grabby and no one pecks them. The guineas are smaller than the layers right now, but they seem to know that’s a temporary state of affairs, and they face off. Staredowns, with their necks stuck out. I’m gonna be bigger than you real soon.
The layers are a bit bossy to the Silkies, but I’ve also seen the rooster run off a rude big hen. YES. I’m so glad it’s working!
Often the guineas are up on the haybales, just watching everyone else.
They still move as an inseparable unit, even if they’re doing different things. Some will be drinking, or eating, and the others will be curled up resting, but right next to them, and then they will all shuffle along together to the next stop.
Now there are five. One guinea disappeared as a very small chick, in the first few days. Actually vanished – I’ve never found a body, and there were no signs of foul play. In September, I found one hen dead in the morning, of unknown causes, like she died in her sleep. All the others came shuffling out of their hay-cave, and one was left, still. I believe there are now two guinea cocks and three guinea hens, judging by size – the differential is growing.
They look much like turkeys to me now, with bald-ish necks, sparse feathers, and they stick their heads out long. So funny/cute! They are “the Africans” or the “little clowns” because they do funny stuff. They are starting to make their weird sounds, and 5pm is the time to practice, every day. Can hear them ten acres away, shouting.
I “cleaned it up” some in the GH. Made some chicken play structures, which they dutifully appreciate.
All the vegetative debris and dead tomato/squash vines are just entertainment for them. Places to run around and hide, and lose a pursuing rooster. They pull down old tomatoes, eat any leftovers, dig, and dirt bathe. It’s a big party. The cardboard boxes too. They always like standing up on things.
There’s still a truckload of wood chips in there that I pushed aside to plant in, and a great deal of hay, so lots of carbon, and I’ll bring in more if I need to. It smells good, not like a chicken concentration camp. My hens will lay all winter in the greenhouse.
At first the layers weren’t sure. They weren’t allowed in the GH all summer, now they aren’t allowed out? They like to slip out the door behind me when I carry something in. Then five minutes later they’re outside standing on one foot in the frost, looking at me. This was a bad idea! All the food’s in there!
Soon I’m going to introduce a new rooster. He’s a gorgeous young bird, a Copper Maran, big but gentle. I’ve been telling my hens I’m about to set them up with him. I have a younger man for you to meet! I’m hoping that if he’s introduced to an unfamiliar room where the Silkie rooster already rules the roost, they won’t have a bloodbath fight. Because the Silkie would lose. This is why I’ve had to keep the flocks separate before.
I know that the space is too big for one rooster to rule, because the second rooster has started to crow! The poor, put-upon, brown beta rooster, who’s molting with anxiety, has enough literal space now to figuratively spread his wings. I hope to give them each a flock and enclosure of their own next year.
All the birds love salad. I thought I was just being lazy, letting a patch of salad greens go to seed, the mizuna growing into beachball sized clouds, and mustard greens into stalks my height and as thick as my wrist that tipped over under their own weight, but I was actually being brilliantly foresightful. I’m going to do it on purpose next year. The chickens love a good salad. I carry in an armload of greens, sprinkle it in a line along the open side of the GH, and all the birds move in, ripping and picking, all mixed up together in inter-avian harmony. Makes it quiet real quick.
The Silkies especially think that the thing to do with turnip tops is to pick them up and whack! them on the ground. It’s not the usual chicken lift and drop, it’s very aggressive, like they’re flail threshing. What’s really funny is a chick trying to do it to a foot-long turnip frond. That’s like a person taking a 30 foot pine tree and whacking it on the ground. It works about as well for the chick, but they try.
I thought they might be into cold-hardy greens considering what they did to the volunteer kale.
The incursion of the birds has pushed out the rodent population, as I hoped. The numbers are now down to one very bold resident squirrel. I hope he gets pecked. Chipmunks are gone.
Now that the coops are in the greenhouse the first Silkie with aspirations above her station has told a friend. Two Silkies are going into the layer hens’ coop to lay eggs! The one is still sleeping in there. Her chicks are convinced they sleep in the cardboard box still, and every night have to be chucked into their coop.
In the morning, I let the Silkies out first while I do everything, to give them a little advantage, first beak in the trough, before opening the layers. They know. They can hear, and they grumble! The rooster comes and waits at the bottom of the ramp for the Silkie hen to traipse out, then he pounces! Every morning. He knows she’s in there.
A couple of days before we moved the Silkie coop into the greenhouse, I got paranoid about the Silkie moms sleeping on the ground, and I popped the two moms and their chicks into the layer hen coop after dark, using the less favored nest boxes. They seemed happy. The one hen was already laying in there, after all. Then the third night, oh no.
One hen, the mom of two, had three chicks under her (sleepover!). The other (less intelligent) six were huddled in the box where their mom had taken to sleeping. No mom. I put them all away and start sweeping the greenhouse with a light. Uhoh. UhohUhohUhoh. She’s not there.
Finally it occurs to me to check the coop, and there she is! She’s lined up on the rail with the big red birds, head down. In fact, I could hardly see her because they’re all so much bigger. She’s done with chicks and moving on up with her life.
She’s big for a Silkie hen, but still! Who does she think she is? I can’t believe they tolerate her.