Tag Archives: winter housing

Sunny days are here again

Yesterday the rain washed away most of the snow, and today I put the fence back up on the chicken yards, and the chickens got to come outside again, whoohoo!Look at the little jailbirds, staring at the outside world.Then they all came pouring out. Mud puddle!The world is messy and so muddy, and quite gross.  But the sun is shining, and the chicken boredom is over as soon as the doors open. And very soon, there will be no fences either and they will be free-range again.The girls were out  most of February because it was so warm, but then March came in like a lion and held a snowpack (and knocked down my hen yard fence with the wind).

Perhaps, this is the final melt.  Garden time!

Also, the posturally challenged chicken was out of the coop, looking far better, and right in the trough with the others.  Like, not using her wings to walk around, like a bat.  Just still very low in the stern.

Happy Easter.  No jokes today, I’m not that creative.

Silkie status

The Silkies are dirty today.  Yesterday I went through the whole flock and vaselined everyone’s feet (setting off a rash of feather adjustment).  Then the Colonel climbed on everyone he could, greasing up their other feathers with his feet, and it was a hot, dust bathing afternoon, so now all the white Silkies are looking very grimy.Brown Bonnet is going broody.  She threw a giant fit at being removed from the covered wagon at nighttime last night, and after a kamikaze plunge through the fence, got her way.  She is also huge.  She’s twice the size of most of the other Silkies, almost as heavy as the Colonel, or a normal layer hen.  Every time I lift them in or out of the coop, there’s Brown Bonnet, and a whoa! moment.  Big blimp.  She’ll be able to cover a lot of eggs.

Inside, Apples the house chicken continues to be no trouble at all, happy to stay in her box or on her sheet-of-newspaper “yard”, even though nothing is actually keeping her from rampaging all over the house.  She hasn’t taken that into her head, luckily (she only jumps out a couple times a week, and HW announces “there’s an exploratory chicken down here!”).  She’s also growing, maybe twice the size as she first came in.  She quickly got over being cuddling or held, protesting at even being pet (which is hard to resist trying because she’s cute and soft, like they all are).  Hey!  Don’t touch me; I’m a wild animal!  I’m a chicken!  Have some respect!

It’s nice to have a little life form in the house, even though we are really very much surrounded with many many life forms, we don’t really need them in the house too.  But it’s still fun to have company.  Today she has an extra thick bed of hay in her box, so she’s riding rather high and has a good view.  Yesterday she was all about scratching.

I spoke too soon about her good behaviour.  Today was an out-of-the-box day, and I got a helper chicken suddenly flapping over the edge of her box..  She landed in the middle of floor then made her way over to me where I was slinging dirt, repotting to give all the tiny tomato shoots their own cells.  I also had some seed packets strewn about, and these interested her.   It’s just like having a cat in your business, except it’s a shy chicken.After her big outing to the world four feet away, she ate and ate and then napped for the rest of the afternoon.

HW was watching a movie about a little girl with a pet chicken.  She was always carrying her chicken around, hanging out (where did they get this stunt chicken?).  Then as she spent more and more of the movie wearing rubber boots with her pajamas, he deadpanned “She’s getting more like you all the time”.“She’s a free range chicken today”

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.

Guinea on the loose

Not too long after I let all the birds loose into their fenced enclosure, I’m outside and I hear a godawful clamor go up from the guineas.  Which isn’t by itself at all unusual.  But I knew right away it meant one or more was out.  OMG, we’re not TOGETHER!

Sure enough, there’s a lone guinea circling the fence, looking forlorn, and furtive, at the same time.I opened the fence, started chasing her/him around the GH to go back in.They never want my help though, and always go streaking off into the woods as soon as they get close to the opening welcoming them back in.

This one ended up pushing its way back in where the fence meets the GH, probably just like it got out.  It seemed to remember.

The most accomplished flyers, the guineas are always able to escape the fence and mesh tent intended to protect them.  I know they’ll at least return at night, and don’t worry about them.  But they do make an unholy racket when separated.

Housekeeping!

Knock knock.  Housekeeping!I came to clean the coop a little late in the afternoon.  There were a number of hens retiring early.  They reluctantly cleared out for me to pull out the thick mat of old hay and start a fresh layer.

Then, as usual, I got some assistance and supervision.  You put this here for me to stand in, right?

I’ll just have a look at your work here before you go.  The hens all grouped up on the roof of the chickeries.Meanwhile the guineas are inspecting the bath house.  They love a good dirt bath. And the new girls don’t mind a dip either.  Cheeks coming through.

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?

 

Why do the Juncos go under the house?

The snow is thin and light and perfect for showing the tracks of hopping song birds. Bird crop circles.  Why the interest in these small stumps?  (view from our upper deck) The Juncos are a mystery.  They like to go under our house.   They even fly in, zooming under the window, and their footprints tell a story of great interest in the space under our house.

Why?  We have only two theories.  That they are getting grit from the bare dirt under the house for their little bird gizzards, or that they are taking seeds under there with them, to eat them where they are not standing in the snow.  And why just the Juncos?

Meanwhile in the GH, work has started on the dirt bath bale.  They are secretive about it though, almost as though they think they’re being naughty, and I haven’t caught anyone in the act.Except this guinea.  Just leaving!  So it might be the guineas.But it’s getting hollowed out.

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….

Dawn in the chicken dome

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

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

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

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

Back at home

I’m home!

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

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

The great escape

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

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

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

Chickens like eating ice.

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

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

Chickens in trees

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

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

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

They grow up so fast

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

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

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

Open the coop for a minute…

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

So it begins

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

Cheeks

 

 

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!

Keet’s day out!

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

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

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

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

Curiosity saved the chicken.

Chicken door!

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

Is that a … chicken door?

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

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

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

First one through!

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

At this time of year?

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

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

Guinea roosts

I hung sticks up for the guineas’ roosting pleasure.  They’re tied off to the purlins about 7′ up, and they swing a little.  The guineas seem to love it, but they are exceedingly coy about being captured on film using it.  I can see them through the plastic up on their sticks.  I can sneak up and catch the last two still holding on, just before they fly down.  But they won’t let me see them all roosted up on it, and they aren’t using their sticks to sleep at night yet.  Still sleeping on the header of the door.

The baby guinea has a new talent.  It can hop up on the baseboard now and run along it behind the ribs. It’s a chick sized highway.

A wall?

The baby guineas were running around on the wrong side of the greenhouse plastic again, sounding like car alarms.  Mom was beside herself, throwing herself at the wall trying to attack me while I scooped up her chicks.  The chicks are funny.  Catching them is the hard part, but then I can stuff them in a sleeve, or pocket, or fold, and they instantly go quiet and still.  Oh, cozy!  Zzzzzzzz.  

That means plugging holes around the perimeter just moved up the priority list.  They won’t last long once it’s cold, slipping out like that.

I was planning to build a wall, harhar, to separate the guineas from the chickens, because the guineas move so fast, en masse,  they zoom through like a guinea train and all the other birds go bursting and squawking into the air.  Because there’s so many guineas, that’s a big train.

But I’m rethinking the wall.

Everyone is getting along so well.  The guineas are exceptionally quiet, with hardly any yelling sessions.  I assume that means they are content.

They’re sleeping on the ground, too.  The guinea mom loves this hay bale cave, and then the other guineas pile on top.