Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Buff Orpington

Pecking Order

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Oh, yes, there is a pecking order among the chickens. The horses, too, for that matter, although there isn’t so much pecking involved with those three. It’s more like a big bite.

Lately, Cyndie has noticed that Hunter is taking issue with Dezirea. The other day he kicked in her direction with both legs to make his point.

I got frustrated with the horses’ antics a few days ago while doing the regular “housekeeping” under the overhang, so I established a horse-free zone until I was finished. I pinned my ears back, figuratively, and ushered them all out with big energy.

There is no question about their understanding. After a few tries to return, which were met with my same high energy message, they resorted to pacing along the imaginary boundary I had established. Several times, when I turned to deposit a scoopful into the wheelbarrow, Hunter checked to see if the order was still in effect, by trying to step in behind me.

I simply turned back from my task to assure him I wasn’t done yet and the area was still closed to them.

After Cayenne’s little nip on my shoulder last week, they have been receiving fresh messages from me that I am above them in the pecking order around here, and demanding the respect that a herd leader deserves.

Yesterday afternoon, I puttered in the compost area with the chickens, moving piles around to create new space. Two chickens, in particular, a yellow Buff Orpington and black Australorp, appeared to be in some sort of contest to outdo each other to see who could eat the most of whatever the disturbed piles revealed.

It’s fascinating to watch the chickens work, actually. They have a very keen eye for the movement of crawling and wiggling creatures. When I slide the pitchfork into a pile and lift out a scoop, there can be quite a few worms or centipedes uncovered and the chickens pursue them with gusto.

At first, the birds are jumpy about my activity and they flinch and startle over my movements, but with each successive rotation of my coming in with the fork or scoop, and then pulling out to turn and dump it in a different spot, they show more confidence.

This allows them to remain close –I would even call it, in the way– so that they are in prime position to make the most of the easy pickings when my fork suddenly uncovers many different delicacies all at once.

I actually adjusted my task to accommodate them, splitting my attention between two piles to give the chickens full access to one whenever so many birds showed up at once to feast that I couldn’t dig around them.

I saw that same Buff Orpington and an Australorp pair get into a wrestling match over one morsel. Eventually, I noticed the Wyandottes get picked on and chased away by both other breeds. They seem to be the lowest in the pecking order.

This adds intrigue to the fact that one Wyandotte often chooses to perch on the tiny space of a cross stud against the wall above the window in the coop at night.

That spot is well above all the rest of the hens on the roost. Maybe she is making a statement to all the others by  spending the night alone up there.

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Who’s Friendliest?

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It’s no contest. When the chickens hear us out and about, they come running. Lately, a pattern has developed in which one of our three breeds is demonstrating an unmistakable preference to socialize.

Our black australorps are the first to approach and then will linger and visit socially, far longer than the rest of the flock.

Cyndie brought out some food scraps from dinner last night, which eventually attracted all the buffs and wyandottes to join in the fun.

On Wednesday night, Cyndie came in from a walk with Delilah and was completely out of breath. She described a scene that sounded totally hilarious.

Since we have little trust about Delilah being near the chickens, we practice a lot more avoidance than we do spending time trying to teach her to respect them.

When the chickens heard Cyndie and Delilah walking by, the birds emerged from the woods and started running after them. Cyndie hoped they would notice the dog and maybe back off a little bit, but they kept coming. So, she prompted Delilah to pick up the pace a bit and chose a path straight for the house.

The chickens kept coming. Soon, Cyndie and Delilah were running for the door, being chased by the flock of twelve chickens.

Led, of course, by the friendliest four.

What fun they add to our days!

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Being Stalked

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She’s all alone, but not alone. Our sole survivor from last year’s brood, this amazing Buff Orpington, has finally ended her non-stop calling for her two most recent missing companions.

She has avoided death on multiple occasions, once even getting bloodied from a too close encounter within Delilah’s jaws. Now, left to fend for herself alone on the roost in single-digit cold overnight temperatures, she seems to be doing her best to tough out her rather dire situation.

The hungry spring predators appear to be stalking with unprecedented boldness. Based on our experience the last five years, the number of roaming tracks in the snow during daylight hours has picked up significantly.

Yesterday, every time we turned around there were fresh tracks showing up in areas we had recently walked, and they weren’t all the same. I would guess a dog or coyote, probably a cat, and definitely that troublesome fox.

I pulled the memory card from the trail camera, only to find the sly critter had completely avoided detection. Based on her travel pattern, I have relocated the camera, pointing it off the trail into the woods where I hope to catch her looking more into the view, as opposed to walking across it. This will also reduce the repeating shots of Delilah and us walking the trail that tends to clutter the results.

If you look at the shot of the fox I posted the other day, she was leaving our property with nothing in her mouth. Following yesterday’s tracks led us to two different spots where a large number of feathers revealed locations where the future meals had been stashed.

Cyndie wondered about putting extra effort to protect the buff against the obvious stalkers, and as a result, we did end up coercing her back into the coop early in the afternoon. One way I look at the possible inevitability of her fate is that it would save us needing to convince the year-old chicken to accept the twelve new chicks (now looking a lot like “tweens”) that will soon be moving to the coop.

By the time the next brood makes it to the free-ranging stage of life, the phase of ravenous spring predation will have calmed to the occasional massacre by some roving set of fangs like we suffered last June. Then we’ll find out which of our new birds are as cunning and lucky as the Barred Plymouth Rocks and our lone Buff Orpington were.

It’s no wonder why free-range birds are so precious.

It’s a jungle out there. So to speak.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

Too Cute

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The chicks are doing very well at staying healthy and looking lively. After just a couple of days of not seeing them, the difference was clear. They look bigger, seem more robust, are more active (between frequent bouts of insta-napping [see example at 1:02 of video]), and are showing clear evidence of feather development.

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We are hoping their early vigor will be a characteristic that stays with them through adulthood.

Before we got chickens, I had no idea they could be so captivating. I now understand how some people get so obsessed with them.

Count us among the smitten.

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Written by johnwhays

March 23, 2018 at 6:00 am

More Chickens

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We have decided to take the plunge. Cyndie has placed the order, I have re-mounted the heat lamp in the brooder, and the chicks are due to arrive at our Post Office this week.

The online chick source has already delivered the starter food Cyndie ordered.

We are getting excited. The first time was a lot more stressful, but with one year of experience behind us, we are feeling a fresh confidence in our chances of raising more chickens.

We certainly haven’t eliminated the potential hazards, but we know that we can deal with the possibilities of worst outcomes. More importantly, we know the joy that happy and healthy chickens bring.

With our Buff Orpington showing such impressive endurance, we ordered three more of that breed. For added diversity, Cyndie also picked out two new breeds: Golden Laced Wyandottes and Black Australorps will soon be bringing their glorious colors to our world.

They will also be bringing us more eggs, eventually.

That’s all well and good, but you know me, I’m more excited about the potential for their devouring ticks and flies.

Here’s hoping for some healthy, hearty chicks. Let the “cheep-cheeping” commence!

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Written by johnwhays

March 13, 2018 at 6:00 am

Please No

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Not again. This morning, we are wondering what we will find when the door to the chicken coop is opened. Yesterday, Delilah once again broke a hook holding her leash and this time attacked the Buff Orpington hen.

I was up on the other side of the house splitting wood when my phone rang. Cyndie’s voice immediately revealed something was wrong.

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Intent on making my way through the entire pile of logs stacked at the base of the big oak tree, which first required sledge-hammering them out of the frozen block they had become, I had already fought off several urges to take a break and do something else.

I couldn’t deny the urgency implied by Cyndie’s call.

Rushing down to the sunny southern end of the barn, I found Cyndie standing with the chicken in her arms. She wanted me to hold the bird so she could search for visible injury that would explain the blood on the ground. Finding nothing, she took the Buff back and asked me to look.

I suggested she give the hen a chance to stand on her own and we could watch her. The Buff stood just fine, but that is when I noticed blood on the beak. It appears the injury was internal.

We are hoping maybe she just bit her tongue. She was breathing and swallowing, with some effort, and the bleeding did not appear to be continuing more than the initial small amount.

If she survived the night, the next goal will be to witness her drinking water and eventually eating food.

As soon as Cyndie had reached the dog and saved the chicken, she marched Delilah up to the house and shut her inside. When we came in for lunch, it was pretty clear the fiercely carnivorous canine was aware she had displeased her master. Her body language was all about remorse.

It was hard to not continue being extremely mad with Delilah for hurting the chicken, but that moment was now in the past.

I decided to take her out for a heavy-duty workout. Strapping on snowshoes, I headed off to pack down a path on our trails that hadn’t received much attention since the last few snowfall events.

Since Delilah has a compulsion to be out in front and pull, that meant she was breaking trail most of the way and expending more energy than normal, which worked right into my plan.

Much to Delilah’s surprise, I also had a plan to double back in the direction from which we had just come, giving me a chance to pack several of our paths a second time.

Each time that happened, Delilah would race to come back toward me and then pass by to get out in front again, pulling against the leash to which I gladly added drag.

I’m pretty sure any energy she got from engaging in the attack was long gone after her unusually intense afternoon walkabout, but I doubt she fully grasps that our earlier displeasure was because the chickens hold protected status.

We’re not confident, but we hope we’ll still have three chickens to continue teaching Delilah to leave alone, despite her irresistible canine instincts.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Other News

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While Delilah and the horses have been getting a lot of attention lately, the chickens and Pequenita haven’t been entirely neglected.

When it gets extremely cold, the chickens tend to stay put all day in their coop, but some days they surprise us and venture out anyway. This week, Cyndie reported, one day it was the Buff Orpington making the trek to the barn overhang, and the next, it was the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens.

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They have us wondering if there might be some issue between the two breeds, that they are doing less commingling lately.

Last night, Pequenita was ferocious about getting some attention from me, so I decided to put a video designed for cats on my laptop screen. She went nuts for it.

A little mouse keeps darting across the screen. She quickly moved her search to the back and sides of the computer to see where the critter was going when it disappeared from view. We were both highly entertained.

It was a nice distraction from some of the dreary news of the day. Have I mentioned how sad I am over the deplorable political situation in this country? And now the thawing permafrost is going to release noxious Mercury gas into the atmosphere.

Although, on the subject of news, one item was out of this world fantastic. If you haven’t seen video of the Falcon Heavy Test yet, I hope you will make time to absorb the ramifications of this spectacular feat while witnessing the amazing footage of a new milestone in space exploration.

That Tesla Roadster with a space-suited mannequin in it flying through space is one spunky escapade. I love it!

“To infinity, and beyond!”

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2018 at 7:00 am