Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘Buff Orpington

Exceptional Effort

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Last week I wrote about one of our Buff Orpington hens who we suspect scrapped with the possum that had gotten into the coop, and has been behaving oddly ever since. It is not clear whether it is a result of exclusion by the rest of the brood, or an act of her own choosing, but she has become a loner from the rest of the bunch.

In the coop, she has taken to staying in one of the nesting boxes, day and night. There is no obvious sign that she is being picked on (pecked on?) by the others, but she repeatedly sets herself apart.

For the most part, the chickens have remained in the coop for over a week while the winter has raged, first with an epic Arctic chill and then subsequent days upon days of snow. More than once, we have opened the chicken door when the harshest temperatures eased.

They’ve showed little interest in dealing with the snow, …or so we thought.

Yesterday, Cyndie came upon a most unusual trail of animal tracks in the deep snow. She worried that it was evidence of a fox stalking our chickens. She checked the coop and counted hens. There was one missing, but there were no obvious tracks, even though the door was open.

On her way back to the barn, she spotted it.

That loner Buff Orpington was sitting by the paddock fence, almost as if stuck in the snow.

The weird trail was the path that hen had traversed through the deep powder snow. She must have almost been swimming to make forward progress. It had to have taken a monumental effort to get as far as she did. I suspect she stopped out of exhaustion.

Cyndie couldn’t get to the hen without first getting a shovel to make her way through the knee-deep snow. She picked up the loner and held her close to warm her.

It’s hard to imagine what drove that Buff to attempt crossing the deep snow toward the barn overhang, other than this ominous behavior of isolating herself from the rest of the brood.

Cyndie put her back in the coop, setting her up on the roost in hopes of re-training her to not spend the nights in a nest box.

That didn’t last, as, by evening, the Buff was back in a box again.

A bit of research turned up a variety of possible internal maladies that may be the cause of her isolation. We are going to let time dictate an outcome, while doing whatever we can to keep the poor girl comfortable.

None of them are laying eggs of late, due to the shortened hours of winter daylight, so it’s difficult to pinpoint egg related issues, if that is what’s ailing her.

Meanwhile, the last visit of the night last night turned up new tracks in the snow that, this time, looked suspiciously fox-like. It is no surprise that the deep snow cover we now have has challenged predators to seek easier prey.

There is plenty of drama to be interpreted in the fascinating markings vividly appearing in all this new snow blanketing our fields and forest. We would prefer that it not involve the taking of any of our animals, but nature will take its course.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2019 at 7:00 am

Balding Wyandotte

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I don’t really know what a normal day is for raising chickens. Pretty much just like all other normal days, I guess. There’s always something of interest readily available to the observant caretaker. I’ve noticed we aren’t getting very many eggs, now that the short days of winter are upon us.

Yesterday was extremely sunny and mild, as winter days go, and our chickens were soaking up the warmth under the barn overhang.

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Beyond the two Buff Orpingtons who seem to have a problem keeping their butts clean, the most notable anomaly we are witnessing is the balding of one Golden Laced Wyandotte. I zoomed in on a healthy looking hen on the left, below, for comparison to our featherless-headed chicken of interest on the right.

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If this is one of those teenage phases where she is trying a different hair style from the rest of the crowd, we get it. Beyond the one photo I’ve seen of a young Cyndie with a permed afro, and my early attempts to get my hair to grow long and straight against its natural tendency to curl, we also parented two children through experimentations with very creative, and far from subtle, color changes.

Our Wyandotte looks like one tough bird.

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In all seriousness, we don’t believe she picked this style by choice, so she is under observation for clues as to what is occurring with her.

There haven’t been any signs of targeted aggression from the rest of the group, and we haven’t noticed any other evidence of ill-health that might be contributing to the loss of head feathers, so the cause is undiagnosed at this point.

For now, we are standing by and relying on the universal cure-all of the passage of time with hope it will bring a return of normalcy for her.

It would be nice if it could happen soon. Winter officially arrives on Friday, and those feathers will come in handy when the next inevitable cold snap arrives for a visit.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2018 at 9:36 am

Lone Straggler

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Apparently, a pattern is developing with one of our Buff Orpingtons, that she lags behind the group when it comes time to return to the coop for the night. Cyndie describes a funny scene that happened the other night when she was feeding and cleaning up after the horses.

The chickens tend to congregate under the overhang at times, but we don’t want them in the barn, so it becomes an added hassle to navigate the door while going in and out during chores when they are present. Cyndie had shooshed them out, but one Buff stayed after the others wandered off toward the coop.

After the sun had disappeared below the horizon, that Buff showed signs of wanting to return to the coop, but acted rather timid about trekking through the snow to get there. She would get only so far and turn and run back to the preferred confines with the horses under the overhang… several times.

Cyndie finally made the trip herself, and had to coax the hen to follow her the whole way.

Silly bird.

Last night, I went down to shut the chicken door for the evening, and when I got there in the dim light of dusk, it was all quiet, but for occasional sleepy cooing from inside. I spent an extra minute or two clearing the track for the door so it would slide all the way, and that was enough time to give me the feeling all was settled in there for the night.

It was a pleasantly quiet time and the fading gradient of orange glow transitioning to blue-black of night on the horizon was gorgeous. I was just about to head back to the house when my conscience urged me to truly confirm all were present and accounted for before leaving.

Thank goodness for that.

I opened the big door to peek in and counted eight bundles of feathers. Luckily, in the low light remaining, I could tell it was a Buff that was missing. Not thinking of Cyndie’s recent tale, I feared the worst. I had already lingered long enough to know she wasn’t anywhere near the coop. 

Where would I look for her body, I wondered.

I stepped away from the coop, toward the barn, and what do I find?

That lone straggler timidly trying to decide if she wanted to walk all the way back to the coop all by herself. Silly bird.

I can’t help thinking how sad it would have been for her to finally make it all the way, only to find the door sealed for the night, if I had dashed back to the house without looking inside to count them first.

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Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

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