Tag Archives: layer hens

Snoopers

It’s that time of year.  The geese are back, and the robins.  A little in advance of the retreat of snow.The so-called ailing chicken is quite lively, considering her posture problems.  She clambered into the nesting box today, and eats with an appetite.  She just needs delivery.  I have to monitor her meal time, too, because other hens come nosing around.  Whatcha got? Nosy little Perchick is convinced something’s going on there. I hear munching.

Cold mornings, hot afternoons

In the morning their water is frozen, the hens stand around with no necks,or on one foot. It’s a calm time.  After the mating, chasing, scrapping, squabbling, and gobbling, that is.  When they are first released, it’s mayhem.  Later it’s calm.  Time to groom. What is she doing in there? And glean.And doze off.   Sometimes when you look at animals, they look back at you with equally avid curiosity.  Cheeks is good at that.The Colonel has been given access to hen land.  I didn’t think he’d stay in there because the flock he protects is larger than just the Silkies, but he’s very comfortable. The chicks are showing their combs, nearly teens now, and they can use the male role model.  I’m not joking.  Young roosters hero worship the big cocks, and I bet good roo behaviour is learned, just like they learn to wipe their beaks and scratch from their mothers.

The first night I let him in there, too, at night when I usually do the airlift, I opened the fence and he matter of factly escorted the whole troupe (but one) to the coop.  A few chicks who have known nothing but the airlift process, were walking around the ramp, worming underneath it, clearly mystified how they were supposed to make the transition from out to in.  Funny.

Another expiring chicken

I have another chicken kicking the bucket.  A few have died this winter, from the crew of clipped beaks that we got our first year, so they’re all the same age, about 5 years old.  I’m glad, in a way, that they don’t live forever, but on the other hand it’s a little bit weird that they’re dropping like they’ve hit an expiry date.  My favorite hen (ok, one of) is from this batch, so I’m not looking forward to losing her.  She’s sweet.This hen showed lethargy for a couple days and then yesterday did not leave the coop.  In the morning she looked so nearly dead that I thought she’d be gone in minutes, but in the afternoon I got surprised.  She’d improved and was alert enough to look at me and accept some water. So she was only mostly dead.   She also found an egg to steal and sit on.  Very odd.

And she’s hung on overnight too, still with us.  She doesn’t look good, but I’ve been wrong before.  I’m giving her vitamins and water, just in case it’s not her time yet.

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.

Sick chicken

There’s a sick chicken (or maybe not sick, just elderly).

A couple of days ago:Comb gone limp and discoloured, and that characteristic no-neck stillness, like a semi-sleep.Or a whole sleep.

This is an old chicken.  There are still older chickens around, because I still have a few with chopped beaks (- what an awful thing), but she’s an elderly lady, as far as hens go.

Today: Comb almost completely flopped and pale, her wings are slumping down instead of held up on her back, and she’s hunched up into herself, dozing in the coop.

Sometimes hens come out of a state like this, perk up and return to business as usual, but most likely she’s approaching her departure.

This is how the hens go around here, except a couple unlucky ones that seem to get got by predators every year.  They enjoy a long retirement, and then they withdraw, drift into this less and less conscious pre-death state, and take themselves to the dark coop for the final sleep. Watching them go, it seems like the transition from life to death is long and smooth, not at all a single moment.

I find them stiff in the coop in the morning, sometimes stretched out, sometimes with their head tucked under their wing.

I think this is the best possible chicken way to go.  It seems natural and restful, but it’s hard to be sure.  They don’t look to me like they’re in pain, but I wish I knew.

*She completed her transition overnight

New girls on the block!

Got some new additions to the Poultry Palace last night.  A few retiring Barred Rocks and one Ameracauna (I’m running a chicken rest home after all).  They went in the coop after dark in the evening and came toddling out this morning, curious and tentative.

The guineas were hilarious, peeking from behind hay bales and furtively scuttling behind to circle the new bird(s) and examine them from all angles.

The big surprise was Philippe Petit, immediately fixing on pretty Puffcheeks (the brown bearded lady on the right), and then clearly deciding that these new girls were his to look after.

Mine.

In the morning, the new girls were all most comfortable in the corner behind the hay bales.

Philippe has never felt so important, and is clearly coming down off his tightrope and roostering up to taking on some responsibility. She looks like she’s about to adjust his feathers for him (the equivalent of brushing some lint off his lapel). Here comes Stew, sniffing around.  Cue the battles.

Now that Jack is gone, the three young Chanticleer (full size) roosters are sorting themselves out, and HW reported Petit and Stew were Thunderdoming it in the afternoon.  Bloody combs all around.  A shock, because Philippe has never engaged another roo, and all of a sudden, he’s in the ring?  He’s taking this seriously.

Also, last night while I was inciting drama anyway by adding hens, I elevated two roosters from the frat house to the big coops, where I want them to integrate and take charge of some hens.  I put Toffee in with the new hens and Brahmas, and Petit in with the Colonel and layers, because that was how I thought they would work out.  They usually turn out to have other ideas.  HW found Toffee back in the boys dorm and Petit posted outside the new girls coop (of course).  He’s committed.  He saw them go in there.

Private dirt bath

Yay, the little girls are using their private dust bath, and enthusiastically.  I saw at least three poofy heads in there from the outside, but I didn’t interrupt. This, incredibly, is Yin.  So big already. Another sunny day, and even if it’s cold outside (it wasn’t, very), it’s balmy inside.  The dust pool is keeping everyone out of trouble.  I brought lunch in today and the air was filled with a fine mist like humidity, but it wasn’t mist, it was dust.  Everyone must be thoroughly dusted by now. This one just had her feet vaselined, and she is not ready to forgive and forget that I totally messed up her leg feathers.  

Now that’s a chicken bathtub

Here we go.They’re over the privacy stage.  They don’t even get out for food sometimes.  Even the guineas.I can walk the perimeter and shake out my neck. (She’s got pool-edge walking skills)

Cheeks is thinking about it.
Cannonball! Cannonball!

They get SO dirty.Why?  Why is this a thing?  They clearly experience great pleasure at it, and I fail to see the appeal.There’s King David having a looksee.Jack appears to still have a little modesty.How many chickens are here? (Three)

What do they say about jacuzzis?  Seats X?  This tub “seats eight”, so far.  I think once they finish off the bale, it could “seat” 14.  That’s a lot of happy chickens.

Nothing brings chickens together like a bath

This time, a hay bath.  Their idea – I haven’t seen them do this before, but I guess it was a hay bath kind of day.  The hay is thick there, where they took apart a bale.  They’re not trying to go through it to the dirt, just enjoying the hay.  Weirdos.In the background, the guineas are working on taking apart the next bale.Chicken yoga.  Name the asana.  I dare you.Hay baths are very relaxing. Well, the Silkie hens are done for now…On second thought, maybe one more dip. More are joining now.  The participants are changing.Excuse me, coming through, guineas coming through. That one in the middle is so comfortable.  Just curling up like a chick. What?  Real roos don’t take baths?

 

New dirt bath

Credit to the Chicken Chick – a recent post said to give hens a wading pool in the winter with peat moss.  I thought Hey, I have one of those!

First step, introduction of the pool:Some curiosity.  Then, the potting soil.  All the hens did ring a rosy around it- What’s this? I’ll let them take that apart themselves. I have to say, I thought there’d be a hen on top of that in seconds, but interest was muted. I expect the top of that will get hollowed out until there’s a chicken wallowing in the top of the bag and the pool is full of chickens.

Stay tuned.  Hilarity may ensue.

Meanwhile, back in the old dust bath...The hens are getting worked up about another hot bath.And then, a surprise.  First one claiming space, is the keet (it’s in there, but hard to see).What!?  How does the keet pull rank?  Dibs dirt bath!   The keet was the first one in, with a hen, and then pretty much the whole room cycled through it.

The hens and guineas hardly interact…until there’s a dirt bath!Later, when the queue got shorter….

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.

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!

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!

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.

 

Hot pig slops, yum!

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. 

And a little of that too…
Or leave them in the bucket
Note chicken behind the pumpkin

Chicken trap

I can explain.

I caught a chicken!

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

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

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

You see, somebody left a snack in here.

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

Then he showed me the picture.

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

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

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

Driving Ms. Daisies

There’s little I enjoy more than driving home new hens.  Usually in some ersatz container – sheet over stock tank, random boxes. Today my coat over a box with no bottom.

I like carrying them hugged in my arm for the first time, telling them they’re going to a new home now, their heads bobbing around looking at everything from 4´ higher up than usual.  Sliding them into the carrying container du jour.  The quiet that falls once we get on the road, broken by a few questioning little chirps from the backseat, some shuffling on tight corners.  I sing to them, or play the radio

Today I picked up three hens I hadn’t known I would be, leftovers from the year’s laying flock that were hanging around as outlaws in the barn.  I can’t resist a good hen, especially when it’s otherwise doomed.

They’re nice.  Low hens, tame and easy to catch. Curious, as they always are, but laid back.  In the dark I carried the broken-bottomed box of birds on my forearms, with their feet sticking through and grabbing onto me, from my truck to the greenhouse  to tuck them into the coop, their new home.

Tomorrow they will meet the rooster.

New Roo in the zoo

The new rooster has arrived!

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The ladies like him.

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.

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They were just determined to follow him around.

He is very handsome as described, with his Copper Maran feathered feet.

img_4762He got some peace on the roof of the coop.

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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.

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He’s like a member of a royal court, with breeches, buckled shoes, and maybe a rapier.

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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.

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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.

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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.

It’s a big playground in the greenhouse now

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.

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When they were small

img_4449 First there were the guineas, with the GH all to themselves.

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Hey can we come in there?

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.

img_4604Then 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.

img_4578Next 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.

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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.

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Or behind it
Or behind it

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.

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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.

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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.img_4586

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.img_4574 img_4577

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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.

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The mother of seven sleeps in here, and lays in here

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Coop infiltration continued

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.

One of these is not like the other
One of these is not like the other

Chickens.  They never cease to amuse.

 

new hens

I’ve got new hens!  Four new-to-me deliveries, two reds and two leghorns (people often get rid of hens this time of year- most of my layers are handmedowns).  What a novelty, to have white eggs!  They got right on it too, one leghorn laying in the coop on her first morning.  She’s the fast learner.  Came walking down the ramp on her first day.img_4682

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We picked them up after dark, and I carried them home in a box on my lap, petting them through the cardboard flaps.

I didn’t have much of a choice, I put them into the coop with the others, and had to hope the rooster would handle welcoming committee duties, as he has before.  I pushed his usual concubines aside and tucked the new hens right in next to him, to bond.

Well, Day One dawned, and I let down the ramp.  Leghorn One trotted down the ramp with the others, and joined them at the trough.

I waited.

I lifted the lid on the coop.  The remaining three were huddled there in panic, just until they all burst flapping out of the open lid and ran away squawking.  So I left.  That’s no good.  That means they will not no where to return to at night, and they didn’t.

I tiptoed back later, and the new hens were all milling around the coop, eating.  And so was the rooster!  He was hanging out with the new girls!  Most of the old girlfriends had decamped to the house after breakfast like they always do.img_4502

I like the way leghorns look, with their ultra-stiff erect tails.

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I know what to do with a nest box

And their floppy combs, often flapped over one eye, like an ill-fitting beret.

HW says they remind him of Beatniks, and if he creeps up real quiet, maybe he’ll hear some chicken jazz, or a poetry slam going down.

At night, as predicted, they hunkered down in the brush a few feet from the coop.  It took several days of nightly scooping for them to get the idea, one at a time, that they live in the coop.

They’re sweet little things. They’re very tame.  They come right up to me, and let me touch them.  The rooster spends all his time with them now, staying with them as they ever so slowly expand their scope outward from the vicinity of the coop.

The new girls don’t know that the greenhouse is off-limits, and blithely trot in behind me.  Don’t mind if I do!  Hm, good stuff in here.img_4499

Then I get to shoo them out.img_4501

One is very low on the chicken totem pole.  Cringe-ingly subservient, as pictured top-of-post.  She had a chance to make a new start, but missed it.  I should call her Violet, as in “shrinking”.  She’s always got her head low, ducking and genuflecting.

They’re getting the hang of having the world to roam in though:img_4471

As these hens went tentatively trotting down the path after the others, I thought They’re gonna fit right in!

A couple nights later, I come home and go to feed them chicken supper, and there are no leghorns.  Oh no, did they get eaten because they’re white?  All the other hens show up for dinner, but the leghorns.  I look all over.  As a last resort, I check inside the coop.  They’ve already gone to bed!  They are the early birds.  Early to bed, early to rise, first down the ramp in the morning, with an egg already laid.

Lightning bugs and chicken feet under a full moon

The lightning bugs are out in force tonight over the blueberries and the moon is pink and bright.

I was bodysnatching chickens out of the coop under cover of moonlight to rub vaseline on their feet.  Yes, you read that correctly.  This is half of the anti-scaly leg mite procedure, which my Silkies seem to  always have, and a few of the layers have mildly.  Since their feet look remarkably better after a night of vaseline so I thought I’d experiment with the moisturizing treatment before the exfoliating scrub, what the hell.

I did the layers first and they were not into it.  Easy to catch, but the coop was a writhing mass of complaining murmurs in the background.  They were squawking and squirming around fighting for the corner.  It was like Playing Koi (Lumosity)- what birds have I done?

The Silkies are a different breed.  They all stay in place and I pick them up one at a time, spa their feet, and replace them.  Just a little bit of peeping protest (including the rooster-he emits the most unmasculine squeaks when he’s handled) and then they stretch out for the foot rubs.  They are so small and delicate and soft and fluffy like you think a dandelion should feel.

It must be very confusing, but they seem to sort of enjoy the massage part.

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Oh, are you going broody too? How committed are you?
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Pretty committed then. I’ve shifted her to the other clean side of coop, it’s coop cleaning day.

We got two hot days, finally, but could I open the hive?   No! We had rip-your-hat-off wind that would not take a break.  Too windy.  Someday I’ll get to see in the hive.

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HW is in a 600km randoneuring event this weekend.  He is almost finished the two day (!) ride, but the heat and wind must have been horrible.  He is having difficulty in the last hours.

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An interesting bug

I am pleased with my sweet potatoes.  i planted the “slips” that came, although they looked like ragged little stems (accompanying literature said ‘this is normal’)

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In a few days, they looked even worse. This is one of the better looking specimens

But then, overnight, stems standing up and new leaves a purply brown colour.  They live!

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These pictures don’t look like anything. It looks like two pictures of a pile of straw!

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Whoa!  This new build is on a low swinging branch of the apple tree.  Only a few feet off the ground.  But these wasps know what they’re doing.  There will be no commute at all to the windfall apple feasting that will come soon.

And this is a chicken path.  I’ve started to notice chicken ley lines where they move through the veg in single file.  Often they use our paths, but they also make their own trails.

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Hen homies

I have the most thoroughly integrated flock of hens I’ve ever had, to date.  They hang together, closely.  I fact, I rarely count them anymore, because I’ll see them as a group, in at most two not very distant packs, and know they’re all there.  No more outliers or lone wolves (I know, I know- inapt).

They have friendships and preferences; two or three will roll side by side and, say, stay out to the very last minute, or linger under the birdfeeder together, while other girls lurk on the dog’s bones, but all of them are never very far apart, and usually surprisingly close together.

This is odd because the current layers are from three sources.  The “old original hens” – the wise old survivors that grew up free-rangin’, yo, the “co-op hens” – unfortunate clipped beaks, and no survival skills at all, and the “leftover hens” from the neighbour, the arrival of whom seemed to catalyze the new familial cohesion.

I can tell the birds of various provenance apart easily.  The old birds are looking dull, and the leftovers are the darkest.

Why are they so tight all of a sudden?

I wish I knew.  They just like each other more now?

As long as they’re happy.