Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

Self Taught

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The Buffalo gals taught themselves to climb their ramp into the coop at dusk! I had just arrived upon the scene as Cyndie was working to find a hole in the netting that would explain how one of the Rockettes ended up hanging out against the outside of the courtyard fencing. I did a quick head-count of both sets of chicks and walked around to where Cyndie was working.

The next time I looked in on the Buffalo gals, they were gone. All 12 had headed inside by their own volition.

That left the Rockettes to be tested with our new idea of herding them to their ramp to see if they would take the hint to climb up on their own. Very quickly half of them did take that hint, but the rest were a harder sell.

They seemed much more interested in cowering underneath their ramp and unleashing a cacophony of chirping. A modicum of hands-on support helped convey the intent and soon all birds were cooped for the night.

I think they will catch on to the ultimate routine soon, but further lessons will be delayed until after the weekend. Our trusty animal sitter is on duty starting today as we are off to the lake for a few days again. My birthday buddy, Paul, and his wife, Beth, are joining us up at Wildwood. There’ll be some biking happening, as I need to put on some miles in preparation for day-long riding beginning in a week on the 2021 Tour of Minnesota.

I wonder where I stashed my tent two years ago after the last Tour.

That ability I have to forget stuff… self-taught, I’m pretty sure.

I can’t really remember.

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Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2021 at 6:00 am

Sweaty Horses

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We are on our umpteenth day in a row of high-heat weather and the stress on growing plants is getting visible. Overnight Tuesday we were awoken by a brilliant flash of lightning with its associated crack of thunder that one would assume to equal rainfall. We received no noticeable moisture from the atmosphere.

Where we haven’t kept up with watering, our plants are suffering.

Our animals all seem to be tolerating the heat, but the horses are a sweaty mess. They almost look like they’ve just finished running a race. [slight exaggeration] To add a little flamboyance to their appearance, they take turns rolling in the dusty dirt to create a little mud pack that seems to provide some protection from the hot sun and biting flies.

The chicks don’t seem to care about the heat because they have those fabulous grassy courtyards covered by shade where they can romp all day long. We are in the phase of chick-rearing that requires forcing them back into the coop by hand because they haven’t properly developed that natural instinct of going inside on their own for the night.

Chick wrangling is not one of my favorite tasks. They don’t make it easy.

When we finally got to the last couple of the older bunch, they actually chose to run up the ramp themselves instead of succumbing to the grasp of our scary hands. It inspired me to next time devise a method of corralling them into an ever-shrinking space that funnels directly to the ramp so they can practice getting back inside without being grabbed.

By the time all the chick chasing was done, it was the humans who were sweaty.

We chose to pass on the rolling in the dirt thing.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2021 at 6:00 am

Heat Advisory

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With the pressure of multiple days of excessive heat driving our concerns, Cyndie and I put in extra hours yesterday to complete the two separated fenced-in courtyards outside the coop for the two batches of chicks. Late in the afternoon, our chicks were scratching dirt for the first time in their lives.

While we worked, we opened their access doors, allowing them to tentatively investigate the strange new opportunity in their own time.

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I appreciate their caution. Being cautious might protect them from risks they will face when ultimately allowed to free-range our fields and forest.

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Getting the chicks out of the coop and onto the shady ground dropped the temperature of their environment significantly. Keeping their water sources filled requires extra vigilance in the heat as those little beaks drink a surprising amount much quicker than expected.

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In no time, I witnessed insects being hunted and devoured. It’s interesting to watch the instinctual behavior of scratching the ground beneath them and then stepping back to peck at whatever might have been revealed. I saw a little beetle rushing to move from one spot to another and wondered how that might play out. The keen eye of one of the chicks spotted that movement and raced over to scoop it up in one smooth move.

Then the great hunter needed to fend off the immediate attention of several other chicks who desperately wanted what she had.

If ever there was a version of “eat and run,” the competition of other chicks defines the phrase when it comes to finding the perfect morsel.

It won’t take long for those birds to change their limited landscapes from green to nothing but bare ground.

At the rate things seem to be advancing, they will be ranging free in a blink. The next big hurdle will likely be figuring out how and when we can take out the barriers isolating the two age groups. I expect it will come after the point of development where it becomes much more obvious which of the Rockettes are noticeably roosters.

Let’s hope high heat pressure will have taken a welcome break long before that milestone arrives.

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Written by johnwhays

June 6, 2021 at 9:35 am

Chicks Moved

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We left the lake place yesterday morning with the weather doing everything possible to make our departure as conflicting as possible. Alas, tasks at home beckoned, energizing us to focus on hitting the road before lunchtime.

Upon greeting our animals, we immediately turned our attention to planting the trillium we brought home with us. Instead of planting in spread-out sets of three, this time we are experimenting with planting them all together in a closer bunch.

They were pretty droopy by the time we got home, but most stems appeared to stand back up after we got them in the ground and watered. Time will tell whether they accept what we’ve done to them and go on to establish themselves 125 miles south of their previous location.

Next order of business was to complete the dividing of the coop space and then move the chicks from each of their separate brooder locations.

The Buffalo Gals went first and acted rather unwilling about getting picked up for the transfer.

We decided to move both sets of chicks to the coop on the same day, combining the shock of a new location and the first exposure to other birds to happen all at once.

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It was hard to tell which troubled each batch more, the new digs or the strange other chirping birds suddenly appearing in close proximity.

By nightfall, they all seemed to be doing just fine with their abrupt change in housing.

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Written by johnwhays

June 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Coop Cleaning

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The chicken coop received a thorough going-over yesterday as we took the first steps in preparation for moving the twelve chicks Cyndie has taken to identifying as the Buffalo Gals.

As we pulled out the removable portions, it was discovered that a few repairs were in order. A plank sealing a seam in the hardware cloth lining had come loose in the ceiling. A significant gap between the two overlapping segments provided ample room for small birds or rodents to wander inside.

Not any more. With that problem fixed, Cyndie put her attention to cleaning every surface and I hunted down a branch to make a third roost perch.

As we were preparing to put away tools and call it a day, I remembered the window covers that needed to be installed over the two side windows. I recalled seeing the flimsy plastic forms, covered in dust, stashed in the barn among a lot of other dangerous-looking objects.

Working together, Cyndie and I delicately, and successfully, lifted the covers out of the debris and headed out the back door of the barn to wash them. I was so happy these things had survived the hazards of removal and storage intact.

While I was washing the first cover, Delilah, the oblivious canine, walked up and stepped on it, busting it in three places as I shrieked at her, frantically shoving to get her off so I could pick it up.

That one now has some funky-looking tape on it, but it should still do the job of preventing rain from coming in the window.

At least the coop is clean! For the time being.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2021 at 6:00 am

Lucky Thirteen

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┬áThe final tally from the hatch is thirteen chicks. It’s too early for us to discern the percentage of genders among them, but breeds appear to be spread across all the hens we had, which is very rewarding since the eggs selected were random and of unknown origin.

Just one black chick, which we believe to be from the Domestique. The others with coloring align with Barnevelders and the ones with feathery feet are easily pegged for Light Brahmas. There may be some New Hampshire or Wyandotte, too. In the image above, two chicks were messing around away from the group.

Combined with the twelve chicks Cyndie purchased, we are looking at housing twenty-five chickens in the coop in the weeks ahead. I’m going to need to add one more branch for roosting.

After the prolonged exposure to peeping chicks the last two days, I found my sleep disrupted in the middle of the night Tuesday by the frighteningly similar, though uncharacteristically loud, peeping of a frog or frogs outside our open bedroom window. From the edge of consciousness, I was forced to try to figure out why I was hearing the chicks for some strange reason.

Scary echoes of what it was like to be a new parent and have sleep interrupted by any sound that could mean a threat to a newborn.

I take some consolation in the fact these chicks take more naps than our kids ever did.

At the same time, I find myself wrestling with a concern that we are simply raising coyote food. I prefer not framing them as such, but part of me remains acutely aware that we have done nothing to eliminate that ongoing threat.

Could a poultry protection dog that doesn’t have any taste for eating chicken, nor an urge to play “chase” with them, be a possible option for us? It’s hard to say.

I know by now to never rule anything out.

There was a day when I couldn’t envision how we would ever accomplish having chickens to help control flies when we had no experience and no coop in which to house them.

Now we have twenty-five and a coop I built from scratch. What an amazing adventure it is that we are living.

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Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2021 at 6:00 am

Popular Nest

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We have four nest boxes in the coop for the hens to lay their eggs. History has revealed the box closest to the chicken door is the most popular.

I suppose when ya gotta lay, the first box might be a welcome necessity.

Cyndie is suspecting we’ve got a rogue who has chosen a spot other than the coop, based on the daily total of eggs collected falling a little short of expectations. She reports a pattern of suspicious chicken “call-outs” that frequently occur post egg-laying now emanating from a location other than the coop.

A cursory survey yesterday afternoon didn’t provide any evidence supporting her theory, but the fact this situation has occurred twice before feed our belief it is not only possible, but likely.

I told her she should let Delilah search using her incredible scent-detecting nose, but then we both felt a hesitancy over offering any encouragement to our intrepid tracker for predatory behavior toward our chickens or the eggs.

If it turned out to be just one hen choosing a remote location, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. Since the egg counts have seemed to be down by more than one a day this week, we are a little concerned that allowing this behavior to go unchecked might inspire more hens to participate in laying eggs in a nest of their own making.

Maybe it is unlucky we’ve seen such little evidence of predator pressure on this latest brood of birds and it has nurtured a complacency about their level of risk. Sure, they are domestic chickens, but they need to realize they are living in the midst of actual roaming wildlife.

A lone hen sitting on a nest in the woods of the neighbor’s property behind our shop garage (where Cyndie senses the familiar clucking outbursts have been coming from) will be no match for the fox that has been caught on the trail cam crossing onto our land from nearby.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2021 at 6:00 am

Rocky Maturing

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Caught Rocky giving a few shout-outs yesterday when I stopped by to check if the brood might be turning in early for the night. I wondered if he might be trying to help me out by calling them all in.

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It turned out they weren’t done for the day and the few who headed inside for a short time were soon back out again. Some decided to scamper up the path toward the barn again. That’s my sign to leave them be and come back when it is much closer to dark.

As can be seen in my video, the added overhang extension performed flawlessly in protecting the chicken ladder from the sloppy, wet snow sliding off the roof. We received a serious dose of “heart-attack” snow that was a bear to plow, but it made for great snow sculpting.

To heck with simple snowmen. Cyndie went with a snowchicken.

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If that isn’t enough to show how much we love our chickens, I actually went along with my wife’s accommodating their tender-footedness and succumbed to her philosophy of shoveling a path to the barn.

Ralphie, is that dorky or what!?

I figure it’s just a sign of true love. I risked my heart for them.

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Written by johnwhays

January 16, 2021 at 11:22 am

Chicken Entrance

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There have been multiple iterations of ramps for the chicken entrance of our coop over the years. Here’s a refresher of the process that got us to where we are today:

The first version suffered a fair amount of abuse from the chickens who took a liking to pulling apart the branches I wove into it. I patched it up once, but then Cyndie smashed it with a shovel when executing a murderous possum that had snuck inside for a night.

So, I built a second one that was much sturdier. Or so I thought. The chickens liked picking that one apart, too. In addition, after several winters of abuse, we grew weary of the ice and snow disaster that built up on it because the ramp crossed beneath the low side of the slanted roof.

Accumulated snow would slide off or drip directly onto the middle of the ramp. Design flaw, I admit.

So, I did something about it. Last May, I completely changed the ramp to a version that ran parallel to the drip line, just inside the short overhang of the roof above.

Okay, how many of you engineering types can see the problem with this solution? Let me give you a hint. How does snow slide off the edge of a slanted roof? (Click here for the answer.)

I had hoped the new sideways design was just far enough inside the dripline. It’s not. That brings us to the latest enhancement. Over the weekend, I built a new chicken entrance overhang to extend the dripline well beyond the ramp.

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Using materials we had lying around from previous projects, including a salvaged hail-damaged clear roof panel from the woodshed, I gave the chickens a luxurious awning over their entrance. Makes the place look downright palatial.

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If that ramp still gets messy, I’ll drop walls from the overhang and give them an enclosed entrance. It’ll be their mud-room where they can kick the snow and mud off their feet before going inside.

Let’s hope that won’t be necessary.

We are now awaiting more snow to see how this works out. Stay tuned for future status reports…

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Written by johnwhays

January 12, 2021 at 7:00 am

Mornin’ Chickens!

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For a few days now I will be the chief chore person while Cyndie convalesces after a minor surgical fix removing problematic bone growth behind her artificial knee. It was beginning to impinge a nerve and tendon and creating unwelcome disturbances in her force.

She regularly comes in after morning chores and shares stories about the adventure, so I decided I would record the opening of the chicken door so she could see what she missed today. As a result, you get to enjoy the splendor, too!

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I wasn’t counting them as they poured out, but I had a sense someone was lagging.

The result was perfect.

Take a moment to share in the morning chicken coop routine we get to see every day!

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Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2020 at 10:45 am