Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for the ‘Chronicle’ Category

It’s Gone

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Now you see it, now you don’t. On Friday, Cyndie was able to trade in our beat and battered red pickup truck while making a deal on a used 2019 Honda CRV. That truck served us perfectly well during our years of hauling hay, but it was falling apart from rust –literally, hunks of rusted metal were sloughing off and clanking to the ground while the truck was parked in front of the shop– and we don’t need to haul hay anymore.

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We were a little surprised the auto dealership was willing to accept the truck. It had been through a lot, including the time Cyndie slid off the road and it rolled over onto the roof. With a bare minimum of insurance coverage on the pickup, we elected to have equally bare minimum repairs done to get it functional again.

It looked like they pounded out the roof with a ball peen hammer to get a new windshield installed and then painted it with dull red spray paint that quickly faded. There was a resulting air leak that whistled as we drove.

The truck also had a phantom drain on the battery that we were never able to solve. The final solution in dealing with that was to install a disconnect on the battery that required we open the hood every time we needed to drive anywhere.

It was a farm truck, and it served well enough for that. I never felt bad when driving through tree branches that might scratch the paint. There was frequent evidence that mice and squirrels sought shelter beneath the hood. There were probably as many acorns stored in it as there were bales of hay hauled over the years.

I’m happy that we had it around when needed, and I’m even happier to have it now gone from our driveway without having had to try to convince someone it was worth buying.

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Written by johnwhays

May 13, 2019 at 6:00 am

Cooling Off

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Despite the wise recommendations toward supporting our broody hens in following their natural instincts, we have chosen to proceed with the process of reorienting them. We want them back with the flock, scouring our acres to control pesky flies and ticks, and providing unequaled eggs as an added benefit.

It’s what these girls were raised to do.

Based on all those images of “Broody Breakers” I viewed on Friday, and seeing the costs for a new crate to do the job, I figured we had enough raw material lying around to make one ourselves. I’ve still got leftover scrap lumber from when we took apart scores of pallets to build the chicken coop.

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First, I built a frame for legs, then we folded up some fencing that we reclaimed from around the willow tree in the paddock, where it had been protecting the bark from gnawing horses.

As I understand it, the goal is to bring the hen’s body temperature back to normal, which will swing their hormones out of the broody drive and get them back to their old selves. The open bottom and sides allow maximum air to flow, which is purported to do the trick after about two days of caged confinement.

They only got a short visit yesterday, before we had to return them to the coop for the night, but it went reasonably well, for a couple of hens who wanted nothing but to return to the nest box each had claimed, whether it had eggs, or not.

This morning, they seemed noticeably more accepting of their temporary confines. They had more interest in the food today, which is something they tend to forego when in the brood.

It will be very satisfying when we are finally able to put them out with the rest of the hens and not have them immediately bolt for the coop. Every time they try to return, it will cost them another day in the broody breaker.

It seems like a sad way to treat hens that are behaving maternally on Mother’s Day, but at the same time, it is Cyndie’s maternal instinct that has us working to cool them off.

Here’s to the mother of my children, and to all mothers today, for the love you shower upon your children (and pets), and for also sharing that love with the rest of the world!

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Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

New Focus

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We have something new to focus on today: altering the natural instinct of two broody hens. It is interesting to discover we are far from alone. It appears that the primary method is to put the hen in “jail” for a couple days. A cage lacking in a cozy place to settle, elevated to allow air cooling from below, seems to be the go-to solution.

Something along the lines of a rabbit hutch or a dog crate is common. I did an image search and discovered a remarkable number of people have documented their version of a ‘broody breaker.’

I was thinking about making something out of material I have stacked in the shop garage, but the lure of a quick purchase to get the ideal cage is a strong temptation. I wish we weren’t dealing with two at once.

That actually fuels our interest in breaking this habit as swiftly as possible, as the information we have read indicates the behavior is contagious.

Two days ago, I was oblivious to the syndrome of a broody hen. After reading on the topic, I suddenly feel included in a group of many people raising backyard chickens. There are so many versions of the same story, with the common thread on the internet revealing folks in search of details on how to deal with it.

This reminds me of the first time I discovered a massive magazine display at a bookstore. I had no idea there were so many publications. Growing up, I was exposed to a tiny subset: Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Popular Science were of particular interest, among several others that made their way into our house over the years.

Standing in front of a wall display featuring magazines covering more lifestyles and hobbies than I realized existed was a real eye opener for me. Had I known at the time, I could have picked up whatever the backyard chicken mag of the time was, and read all about it.

I haven’t been to a bookstore in a while, but I bet that magazine rack isn’t nearly as impressive. It is probably a single tablet device connected to the internet with links to every imaginable topic. There, you can find pictures of innumerable versions of solutions to whatever new problem you have stumbled upon.

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Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2019 at 8:48 am

Not Sick

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Cyndie figured out that the behavior we are seeing in our Wyandotte –well, unfortunately, now two Wyandottes– is a case of them going “broody.” They want to hatch eggs. From what we have learned, reading up on the subject, Wyandottes have a noteworthy tendency for becoming broody.

The vision of that first hen splayed out in the nest box, when I initially spotted her there, looked completely different than normal. She seemed like a big water balloon, the way she spread out. Knowing now that she was trying to incubate eggs, it makes perfect sense.

Looks like we will have our work cut out for us to break the hens of the broody behavior. That mothering instinct kicks in and changes their hormones. Since there are no fertilized eggs to be hatched, there is the possibility that broodiness will continue beyond the average 21 days, given no reward of chicks.

Prior to kicking into gear with some of the more involved re-training suggestions, Cyndie has tried simply removing the hens from the nest boxes and putting them out with the others. Our second brooder grumpily sat right down on the ground and refused to join in the frivolity of a mealworm snack.

Her loss.

Discovering that they aren’t sick has been a relief, but there are still reasons for concern. We certainly enjoy getting eggs from our hens, but if one stops laying for a time, it’s not a serious problem. However, if the broody hen doesn’t get back to her normal self, it can be hard on her health over time.

Of even more concern to me is that going broody can get to be contagious, certainly supported by our recent evidence of the second Wyandotte taking to similar behavior in another nest box.

We’ll be intensifying our efforts to interfere with their brooding instincts until we can get things back to usual.

Just when it was feeling like we were getting the hang of this chicken rearing, another new lesson pops up to remind us how little we actually know.

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Written by johnwhays

May 10, 2019 at 6:00 am

Yes Indeed

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It might be cold outside still, but that isn’t stopping Cyndie from forging ahead with her great wardrobe transition to the warm season. After work yesterday, I walked in on a disaster in the bedroom. It looked like the dresser had gotten sick and thrown up.

I don’t understand how that drawer ever contained all of the contents that were now unceremoniously regurgitated up out of it and spilled onto the floor.

Yes, indeed, warm weather can’t be far off now. Winter socks are getting stowed, and shorts and t-shirts will soon find a place in these drawers.

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In an update on our oddly behaving Wyandotte, Cyndie reports the hen is agreeing to take sips of electrolyte-enhanced water, but otherwise still chooses to isolate herself in a nest box. She doesn’t appear to be getting any worse, so we are continuing to let her be and will watch to see what each new day brings.

If she hangs on long enough, maybe she will be able to come out and enjoy a period of several warm days in a row. I saw a prediction that it might happen as soon as next week.

We are looking forward to that. Yes, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

May 8, 2019 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ Green

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With a little rearranging in the garage, I moved the ATV and snowplow to the back and brought the lawn tractor to the front. It’s a definitive sign of the change of season. I also got the back yard mowed, which brought out a whole lot of green in our landscape.

Probably in large part, because it chewed up the leaves from last fall that were still covering the bulk of the back hill, because we never got around to raking them before the snow arrived.

From there, we headed down to the labyrinth, where Cyndie pulled weeds and I reassembled the fallen blocks around our compost and wood chip locations.

Now, we need to replenish the wood chips, and there are plenty of branches waiting to be chipped. A short distance to the right from the view in that photo, there was a collection of branches from two years ago, when we hired professionals to trim dead wood from our trees.

It was a big reward to finally start pulling the debris out, because every time I have passed those trees since the day it was cut, I’ve wanted to have the job done.

I probably got through about half of what needs to be pulled out and stacked for processing, but it’s a good start.

I look forward to transforming that pile of branches into a filled wood chip station, which Cyndie can then use to dress up the landscape around her labyrinth plants.

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Written by johnwhays

May 6, 2019 at 6:00 am

Downright Summery

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Warm, sunny days have been few and far between this spring, which makes yesterday special, relative to the competition. It was almost hot, at times, and there was enough sunshine to get burned, which I did a little bit, after sitting on the deck with our visiting friends, Jeff and Renee. We celebrated Jeff’s birthday with some berries over Cyndie’s homemade pound cake slices, and a lesson in the cribbage board-game, “CrossCrib®.”

Out of respect for those who were on the wrong end of an overwhelming scoring feat of 31-0, I’ll let the losers remain anonymous, but Jeff got a sweet birthday present in the win and I enjoyed the perk of being his partner.

Seeing our guests roll down the driveway on their motorcycles was inspiration for Cyndie to pull her convertible out for a thorough polishing, while I assembled and installed the pump and filter in our landscape pond.

I found Cyndie very agreeable when I suggested we celebrate my waterfall accomplishment with a convertible ride to the nearest Dairy Queen for a treat.

The buds on trees are hinting that leaves aren’t far off now, and we drove past several lawns being mowed for the first time, marking visible milestones in this year’s hesitant transition out of winter. Walking Delilah across the hill of our back yard, I quickly discovered our grass is definitely in need of a trim, too.

After a melty ice cream treat, Cyndie got us home just in time to turn on the 145th Kentucky Derby horse race and see a historic ending. In a first for the Derby, the first horse to cross the line in the muddy slop was not the official winner.

After race stewards reviewed the running, they disqualified Maximum Security for interference, bestowing the victory on 65-1 long shot runner-up, Country House.

The first leg of the Triple Crown is in the books. Can summer be far behind?

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Written by johnwhays

May 5, 2019 at 8:40 am