Rainy Tuesday Update

So, it’s raining today, with little patches of sunshine here and there.  The weekend was pretty much the same, but the week was pretty exciting around the barnyard and pasture.

First off… we’ve had visitors of the nasty variety.   Two fat brown woodchucks who think they own the place.   Dad shot one sneaking around the garden and caught the other in a trap he placed by their hole.

A couple of days later, we caught this opossum in the same trap.  Which means they are sharing the holes under the barn.

Dad wasn’t targeting the possum, because he read somewhere that they eat ticks. I don’t know if that’s true, but the DO eat eggs and young chicks, and can also kill adult chickens. I’m glad we are one possum less this week.

The neighbor’s white turkeys also paid a visit (which I didn’t get a picture of), but the chickens are getting used to them being around.

Ashley decided to go broody, and spent most of the weekend in Broody Jail.

Now, I know I have said in the past that I wasn’t going to use the Broody Breaker method anymore and just give my hens eggs.  But this hen is a special case.  This is Ashley – she who lost her babies 2 times in the fist week of their lives, kept leaving nest and getting too confused to go back to it, and then raised them to be neurotic weird freaks.  (example, Felix… and Perdie who STILL doesn’t trust me.)   So… no eggs for Ashley.

Besides which, Pavelle’s babies are two weeks old today and Rapunzel’s hatch/incubator babies are due to be hatching today.  Remember?  The 4-H project?   So yeah… I don’t need more babies just yet.  Especially not from a hen I don’t trust.

And while Ashley cooled out in Broody Jail, DH and Little Dude made another attempt to dry out the swampy areas in the middle of the chicken pasture.  Last year, DH made a pond.  This year, he’s spent days (and days and days) digging trenches trying to find where the underground springs run.

The chickens LOVE it because trenches mean mud, dirt, worms, bugs… stuff for them to do and see and EAT.  So they really love helping DH with his trench project.

And lastly what post would be complete without something about Pavelle and her babies?

This past week, Pavelle decided that she didn’t like the cat carrier as a nest, so she moved her babies out of it and up into one of the laying boxes.  They only sleep there at night, because the other thing they REALLY discovered this week was the great outdoors.  She takes them into the tunnels, the run and even into the barnyard.  They have not yet ventured into the greater chicken pasture, but still, the spend a good portion of the day outside, getting whatever yummies nature has to offer.   Whatever it is, they always have full crops when I see them, so it must be good.  🙂

This is Feather Butt, aka The One With The Feathered Feet. If you look closely…
… I *think* Feather Butt might also have a mini-crest. It’s not as pronounced as Pavelle’s was, but it sure looks like one to me, there on the top of his/her head.


Happy 2nd Week-aVersary, little Pavelle-Babies!

It Could Have Been Worse

coopdoor  See this?

It’s a chicken door, so our chickens can go outside during the day and not have to spend all day inside their coop.

Normally, Little Dude and I lock it up at night when we do head count, and thus ensure that whatever sneaksy nighttime predators their are don’t think that it’s an open invitation to snack on our birds.

Yesterday, I went down to the barn, as usual.  Opened the front door, and as usual, called out my greeting of ‘good-morning, peepy chicks!”   Yes, I know that most of them aren’t chicks who say “peep” any more, but they ALL grew up hearing me say it, so it’s custom.

What wasn’t ‘as usual’ was the reaction I was greeted to – 14 very agitated chickens in the coop.  Abigail, as the oldest hen and self-appointed boss, leading the list of complaints in her most bossiest of Boss Voices.

Something was wrong.

The something was quickly noticeable.  The door – as seen in this non-related pictured – had been left open ALL Night.

It had been windy and cold, and that coop had been exposed.  ALL night.

Which, quite frankly, I am at a loss to explain because Little Dude and I, plus DH, went down there as is our norm, and were in and out of the coop 3 times the night before.  Little Dude went around back, brought in the treat dish.  He usually locks the coop door then.

We all missed it, and I don’t know how.

Abby didn’t care about ‘how’ we missed it.  Just that we did.  She yelled at me while I recounted heads and checked that everyone was safe and unharmed.

She yelled at me while I checked that no flying birds or anything else unpleasant had invaded the coop and might still be there.

She yelled at me while I took the treat dish and filled it (I give them a scoop or two of feed with a little scratch on top to go outside with, one a day).

She yelled at me while I took the treat dish outside into the run.

We screwed up and she wanted me to know about it.

Well, yes, we did screw up.  Anything could have gotten into the coop and attacked our chickens.  Nothing did, thank goodness.  But I definitely could have been met by something much worse than a scolding hen.



An Early Christmas Gift…

… for my birds.

Yesterday DH, the kids and I finished up the last of our Christmas shopping.  After wrapping and packaging up gift baskets for teachers and the bus driver, we headed down to the barn to collect the last of the eggs for the day, count heads and lock up the chickens for the night.

I was apprehensive because while we were busy, this was happening in the barn yard:

Abby took Pip waaaay outside the run today, and let him explore the weeds in the barnyard.
Abby took Pip waaaay outside the run today, and let him explore the weeds in the barnyard.

As you can see, the snow from Saturday didn’t last long. We still had a small powdering yesterday morning but by afternoon it was mostly a memory.  Abby decided to show Pip the secret treasures a weed patch can hold.  Personally, I think that he’d be better off looking in the spring, when there are actually bugs to find.  But what do I know?

So, I was apprehensive, because while I was snapping this picture, Little Dude spotted a bigger, darker figure flying overhead, looking for God only knows what, and Pip is just small enough to snatch if the big flying shadow hungry enough.

It must not have been, because Pip was in the coop with his Momma, Papa and Aunties when we went down to lock them up.

DH came with us, and we gave the chickens an early Christmas present… a new roost for their coop.

A little back-story here, but before Thanksgiving, Dad and I clipped their wings so that we could lock them in the run on the days we go away and can’t watch them.  I think I’ve mentioned in other posts that, some days the barn yard and pasture aren’t enough for them and these chickens cross the road to come looking for… I’m not sure what.  Me?  Little Dude??  Bugs???  Greener grass????

And while it’s less of a problem on days when someone is here to see them safely back across the road, on holidays where we might be gone it’s a huge problem.  (The fence is in the planning stages now.  Yay!)

But a more interesting problem, however, has risen inside the coop as a result of the wing-clip.

My girls can no longer roost in the rafters.  They’ve been trying, because they like it up there. and I guess (I’ve read anyway) that the ones who roost highest up have some kind of social status in the flock.  But mostly, there’s about five or six hens who really liked roosting up in the rafters.

Since Thanksgiving, they’ve all been trying to reach that Nirvana … to sad/pathetic/sometimes hilarious results.   Little Dude and I have watched several go crashing into the side of the coop time and again.  There’s also been some domestic squabbles about who’s sitting in which spot on top of the laying beds (there’s a shelf on top where they sleep sometimes).  All this because some of the girls can’t jump up to the rafters.

So after a few nights of this, I asked DH to build them a perch they could use, halfway between the beds and the rafters.  I figure if they had a shorter distance to go up, some of them could make it into the rafters and some might stay on the roost.

I placed Dots, Madison and Maicey on the perch myself, but while I snapped pictures and helped with clean up, Penelope, Henrietta and a couple of the others made it up there themselves.  By the time we left, Henrietta had found her way back into the rafters and the Promised Land.  Even Dots had snuggled into a squat on the perch and closed his eyes.  He usually sits in the corner on the top shelf of the beds.

Over all, I’d say it was a successful project.

Perches and Predators

Sunday, I was asking about toys or items to keep my little flock happy, entertained and not beating each other up.

They are gold sex links, and we have twenty of them.  If I’m reading things correctly (various chicken websites), we have 3 little girls and 17 boys.   The boys are starting to think they are chickens and ‘play fighting.’  By that, I mean challenging each other and puffing out their little, still-downy chests.  It’s amusing to watch, but I worry about them turning into little bullies without better things to do.

Yesterday at breakfast, I found on of the bigger guys sitting on top of their feeder.

They needed a perch.

So I looked around the barn and found a cut piece of wood left over from where DH finished with the coop and put it in the brooder, leaned slanting in one corner.  They freaked out.  Totally ran to hide behind their feeder.  Chickens, I swear!  Little Dude and had a good laugh over the freak out.

This morning’s breakfast, I found this:

While I cleaned up their water dish and filled their feeder, I observed three others checking it out.  Some of them walked up to it and pecked it repeatedly, even two of my little girls, which pleased me because they have been shy compared to the boys.  So I stayed a little longer than usual, picked up a couple to talk to and cuddle, and fed a few of them by hand… and watched more of them experiment with their new perch.  Not freaking out any more.

The ‘hand feeding’ thing had a twist or two today, too.  Instead of one or two brave little guys tentatively pecking from my hand, I had so many trying to eat the chick starter that I had to refill the palm of my hand (I do have small hands, by the way) three or four times.  They swarmed me, pushed slow pokes out of the way, and one of them jumped up on the perch to try and get what I had to offer.   Even two of the girls got in on the act. Again, my girls are shy, so I am very pleased.

The best part was that one of the chicks I picked up with cuddle didn’t want me to put him down.  Instead of scrambling to get away when I put him back in, he sat on my hand, happy as a clam, and when he didn’t move and didn’t move, I used my other hand to get some feed and held it out to him.  He sat there, eating chick starter out of my hand, until was gone.  I literally had to put him down, because didn’t want to step off.  If someone (Mom, Little Dude) had been with me, I might have gotten a picture of it, but alas! I am usually solo in the mornings.

Well, not entirely solo.  The last couple of days, I’ve noticed a barn cat when I come down in the morning.  He runs off when I open the door, but I suspect he knows my little ones are there.  One of these days, I’m going to catch him on top of the brooder.  It’s a good thing we have it secure.  There’s chicken wire, window glass and sturdy boards.  Cat can’t get through that so easily.