Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘backyard chickens

Chick Socializing

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Was hangin’ out with the chicks yesterday to further our ongoing exercises of socializing them to be friendly with people. I served up some extra treats in my palm that brought everyone up close for a piece of the action.

Those who didn’t want to fuss with the crowd wandered around behind me to peck the rivets on my pants.

All four breeds are developing nicely and everyone appears to be getting along reasonably well. We’ve reached a plateau of little change in our daily operating procedures for them that will likely last weeks. We are under the impression that they need to grow closer to the size of the adults before we take out the divider in the coop and merge young with old.

There are signs of a comb beginning to show above the beaks of all of the chicks, but one girl, in particular, is well ahead of the rest. One of the New Hampshires has me wondering if it’s possible she’s not actually a girl.

This one has always been bigger than all the others and already has both comb and wattles well developed. If we start hearing some crowing sounds one of these days, it will be a confirmation. Either that or we could be getting our first new eggs much sooner than anticipated.

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Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

One Month

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Our little babies are a month old now and outgrowing the space in their brooder. They are adding feathers and sprouting tails, each at their own pace. The poor early developers stood out as unwelcome attention-getters. All the other chicks giggled and poked fun at their odd protuberances, until suddenly they got them, too.

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We are planning today will be the day to transfer them to their half of the recently subdivided coop. I think they will like it.

It’s a bit like they are transitioning from elementary school where they are totally confident to the high school where everything will be new and intimidating. Cyndie’s a former principal so she knows how to create a safe and welcoming space for first-year classes.

These kids will quickly become masters of their new domain. After they reach a size compatible for mingling with the 3 adult hens, it will be the elders who we will be curious about, as they will be outnumbered four-to-one all of a sudden by these unfamiliar new breeds.

Feathery feet! Oh, my!

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Written by johnwhays

August 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

TwentyTwo Days

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I’m happy to report that the chicks are all progressing wonderfully in their daily race to maturity. In fact, they are beginning to seem a little crowded in our water-trough brooder.

When I had the cover askew yesterday while cleanng out the waterer for a poop-free version, one of the New Hampshire chicks made a leap for the lip of the water-trough and achieved a perfect pin-point landing. She seemed entirely pleased with herself over the accomplishment.

I didn’t give her a moment to enjoy it, reacting instantly to snatch her in avoidance of further escapades. The two New Hampshire chicks appear to be the boldest and bossiest of the twelve, although the others will all push back when getting picked (pecked) on.

The one Barnevelder chick that was lagging in development continues to hold her own against all the others who take every opportunity to make sure she knows she is at the bottom of the pecking order. I figured she would remain half their size as they weren’t going to stop growing to allow her to catch up, but it is getting harder to instantly spot her among the brood of active chicks.

It is normal for chickens to always want what another bird has picked up in its beak but the littlest chick didn’t shy away once last night when a rival repeatedly pecked at the very spot where the first one was eating. In fact, she even alternated to pecking one slot closer toward the rival in a perfect tit-for-tat response.

“You take one of mine, I’ll take one of yours.”

I’m gaining confidence that she will do just fine as they all grow into the phase of full feathered “pullets” in a few more weeks.

I sure hope I have the coop subdivision completed by then. (Maybe I should actually start on that project.) The three adult hens are about to lose some square footage and will soon have to deal with a dozen rambunctious new neighbors.

I’m sure they will be just thrilled about it.

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Written by johnwhays

August 7, 2020 at 6:00 am

Eleven Days

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Check out this video clip from yesterday and see if you can detect the change of a few days’ growth:

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In the background of the audio of that clip, you can hear one of the three remaining adult hens making a racket, probably announcing she laid an egg or seeking to reconnect with the other two after having just done so.

The one Barnevelder chick who was lagging in growth has been receiving special support from Cyndie in hopes of boosting it over the hump of disadvantage it would otherwise face. Simply providing extra hydration quickly results in more energy and more interest in eating. We are happy whenever we see evidence the little one chooses to eat on her own or pushes back at others as often as they push her away.

As long as she keeps improving, we’ll keep giving her support to help her along.

When she settles down to nap, which they still all do with relative frequency, others snuggle up with her nicely until some doofus walks all over everyone and wakes the whole bunch. I snapped the photo above because they were all laying together with heads down, but just my motion to move in for the snapshot caused them to pick up their heads again.

They are doing a lot more flapping of wings and jumping up on things.

I’m almost ready to stop calling them chicks.

They’re becoming little “henlets.”

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Written by johnwhays

July 26, 2020 at 10:09 am

Wild Visitor

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The first message I received from Cyndie yesterday was a celebration of the recently broody Wyandotte choosing to exit the coop of her own volition.

Cyndie had first attempted the cold bath method, which simply rendered the hen incapable of standing but didn’t break that drive to brood. Then she resorted to the broody cage for a required two different sets of multiple days.

The second message I received announced a different bird had showed up to chill near Cyndie while she was working on her new garden plots.

This beautiful little grouse let Cyndie get very close without showing any nervousness, but didn’t react with any interest to offered seeds or water.

I figure the bird sensed Cyndie’s chicken-momma skills and was naturally drawn to her nurturing spirit. Or, it was seeking protection from marauding turkey flocks that roam our area.

We frequently hear pheasant calls and occasionally see them, but this is the first time I have seen a grouse. Funny that it gave such an appearance of being domesticated. Maybe it wants to get in with the cool kids and join up with our chickens. With the flock of hens drastically reduced in number, now might be a good time to try.

The three chickens seem a little lonesome for their absent sisters.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Newest Ramp

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Chicken ramp is now up to version three. I’ve given up on the cutesy woven willow branch ramps because they don’t hold up to the abuse of the elements and the apparent urges of critters and/or chickens to pull them apart.

It feels a little sad to be getting around to fixing this just days after the loss of five hens, but there are still three birds who are going in and out of the coop and I have decided to remedy the design flaw of passing through the drop zone for snow sliding off the slanted roof.

The new design approaches the chicken access door from the side, keeping it just inside the drip line off the roof.

Cyndie said the first chicken to exit the coop this morning after the door was opened had to stop abruptly to figure out the turn, but then walked right down.

I watched the Wyandotte who is becoming broody approach the new ramp from the ground yesterday, driven by her strong urge to get back inside and park in an empty nest box. She stopped where the bottom of the old ramp would have been and stretched her neck up as tall as she could with a look of incredulity as she inspected the strange alteration.

Then she flapped her wings and hopped halfway up from the side and scrambled up through the opening.

I’m anxious to see if the snow will drop just beyond this new ramp since that is the primary reason I changed to the side entry, but hopefully, that test won’t happen for many months.

Seven years ago today, the first spring after we had moved here, we received 18-inches of wet snow that wreaked havoc on trees and branches. I will always remember the sound of snapping limbs that resembled rifle reports cracking all around me within the otherwise sound-deadened thick blanket of white.

It was very distressing.

I will happily wait until next winter to see how the newest version of the chicken ramp works when melting snow drops off the roof overhang. By then, we should have round three of purchased chickens established, as Cyndie has already placed an order for all new breeds. Delivery is much delayed and breed selection was rather limited due to very high demand.

I guess a lot of people are in the market for the comfort of having their own source of eggs at a time when going out in public is being discouraged.

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2020 at 8:35 am

Luck Ends

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Our surprising run of luck with keeping our latest eight free-range chickens in the wilds of rural Wisconsin farm country ended yesterday in a very similar fashion to our first attempt a couple of years earlier. In the waning hours of daylight, when Cyndie went out to close the chicken door on the coop, there were only three hens on the roost.

A cursory survey of the surroundings turned up one body and one pile of feathers. No other clues were found.

Some predator or predators had a good meal last night. It, or they, made off with four gorgeous hens.

It was a real joy while it lasted. Unfortunately, it is not joyous at all when lives come to an end. The cycles of natural life can be harsh.

The unwelcome drama made for a pretty crummy end to an otherwise rainy, gloomy day.

And then there were three…

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Written by johnwhays

April 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Digging Projects

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Since much of my yesterday was spent tethered to the day-job email account I didn’t dig into any large outdoor projects, but I did get a chance to do a little digging. There are remains of two old manure piles that have essentially been flattened by chicken activity that I have wanted to toss together into one big pile. When I start turning dirt, chickens come running to take advantage of the opportunity for their worming purposes, so it needed to be a project that didn’t involve the presence of a certain canine.

Now that Cyndie is home to entertain Delilah, I nabbed my chance to revisit my old days of turning composting manure piles, much to the chicken’s delight.

The three breeds have distinctly noticeable differences in behaviors. The two Australorps are impressively bold about getting as close as possible to my every pitchfork turn, eager to get first-dibs, accepting my tapping them out of the way so I have room to take the next scoop. The yellow Buff Orpingtons recognize the advantage the black Australorps have and try to emulate them, but they aren’t as confident about getting so close to the business end of my pitchfork and spend most of their time in retreat.

The Wyandottes have always been the more timid of the three, and have figured out there are plenty of worms to be found in the scoopfuls getting tossed onto the new pile, so they spend their energy on the back end of the process.

The constant presence of the hens is both entertaining and annoying. I could do the job twice as fast if they weren’t so in the way, but it wouldn’t be near as much fun.

After I had tired of the exertion, I stepped back to just stand and watch them. In no time, I found myself surrounded by the flock as if they wanted to come thank me for the treats I had unearthed for them.

Today, there is more digging in store. I want to dig in the new footbridge so the ends are at ground level to accommodate the primary purpose of being able to drive the lawn tractor across the ravine with ease.

After that, a much larger dig is awaiting up by the house. Cyndie wants to plant a produce garden on a slope that will require terracing. I thought I was just going to be putting in some short retaining walls but the project now threatens to involve critter proofing with buried hardware cloth and perimeter fencing.

I fear the possibility of more digging than I’m interested in, but I expect visions of a future with home-grown produce might help me to overcome that lack of interest. Plus, such a garden will provide a place to use all that composted soil I’ve been piling up.

Can you dig that?

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Egg Bonanza

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One of the best things about April 2nd is that there are 364 days before needing to survive April Fools’ Day again. The one silly bit of mischief I tried to pull off yesterday didn’t work as hoped, but still provided some laughter when I demonstrated later how I had intended it to play out.

Well-timed revenge was enacted and I came back from my lunch break to a malfunctioning mouse for my computer. I found a slip of post-it paper stuck to the underside covering the laser. “April Fools!” was written on the paper. Nicely executed.

One thing that was no prank yesterday was the home-laid egg performance by our eight hens. Yesterday was our first 100% production day for this year.

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That’s one less trip to the grocery store in search of essentials for me.

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Written by johnwhays

April 2, 2020 at 6:00 am

Just One

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Found out Cyndie bought eggs from the grocery store the other day. With the hours of daylight reduced this time of year, our hens have dropped production of home-laid eggs a significant amount. Yesterday, the grand total count was one.

Sometimes, you don’t know what you’ve got, till it’s gone.

Speaking of gone, more of our chickens have begun molting feathers, unfortunately, just when the early cold snap showed up. Seems odd that chickens would molt so late in the year. Although, I can see how it might have served as inspiration for early peoples to gather all the shed feathers to make beds or blankets just as the cold temperatures were arriving.

Cyndie chased a squirrel out of the coop yesterday. Maybe it was on a mission to collect feathers for his or her nest.

Chickens are hardly ever in there laying eggs lately, so at least someone is making daytime use of the shelter. Hah!

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2019 at 7:00 am