Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

Feeling Wintery

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We did not get much of a chance to ease our way into winter this month. This morning’s single-digit low temperature is the second time already in November that we have faced such surprisingly cold air. The average high and low for this area in November is 40°/25°(F).

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My favorite weather blog is predicting a brown Thanksgiving next week, so we are looking forward to a return to more normal high temperatures in the days ahead, to melt away the remnants of last week’s snowfall.

The horses have been quick to develop their thicker winter coats and appear to be adapting to the cold without difficulty. Delilah loves the snow and romps with visible excitement, frequently burying her snout in the powder and coming up with a wonderfully frosty nose.

The chickens are already over most of their apprehension about walking in the snow, so we aren’t too concerned about them. I noticed recently that the size of one roost (there are actually two) seems to best accommodate 8 hens, based on how our current brood situate themselves.

Unfortunately, we currently have 9 birds.

Last one in tends to set off a chain reaction of chickens wrangling for position, with one dropping down when a 9th barges in line. Occasionally, a Wyandotte will choose to hurdle them all and perch against the wall on a stud above the window.

Last winter, we only had three hens and they didn’t have any problem fitting. You’d think they would split up and use both roosts, but I haven’t seen that yet.

For the first time in the two years we’ve had chickens, we think we may have a sick hen. Her change in behavior started about the same time the snow arrived, so it wasn’t clear at first that there was any issue beyond not wanting to walk in the snow. Now that the other eight have returned to normal behavior, the malaise of the ninth has become more conspicuous.

She doesn’t want to leave the coop. It is hard to track her eating and drinking, so we are not sure if this is a serious illness or something minor that will resolve itself over time. We’ll start observing her with increased scrutiny to see if we learn anything more.

We have been so intent on tracking the potential predators that threaten the hens, it would be a shame to instead lose one to illness. We hope to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

Two Frights

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Today’s title isn’t about politics, either. I successfully ignored all media broadcasts of election result(s) play-by-play yesterday, much to my delight. I voted early, so that task wasn’t a part of my yesterday and I was able to remain in the bliss of ignorance as to the eventual outcomes.

However, that didn’t mean my evening was without drama. I experienced two different momentary frights, both of which resolved positively after the shortest bits of distress, I’m happy to report.

The first fright occurred when I couldn’t find a much-favored loaf of brown bread I had just taken out of the freezer on Sunday. I could see that our college crew, who are providing morning support while Cyndie is out-of-town, had made breakfast during their shift.

They didn’t eat it all, did they? Couldn’t have.

Did they put it in the refrigerator? Nope.

Did they take it with them?! Well, the question occurred to me.

Oh, there it was, in the drawer below our usual placement.

Panic averted.

What? I really like brown bread.

With the return to Standard Time this week, darkness arrived while I was just finishing up tending the horses. This provided an opportunity to take care of the task of closing up the chicken coop for the night, as well. That meant I would make one less trip out into the soaking wet, very cold, and uncomfortably windy weather that is our reality this week.

By the time I reached the coop, chickens were already inside. I slid the small back door closed and walked around to the front door to peek in on them for a head count.

1, 2, 3, 456… 7, 8.

I looked again, squinting as if that would help see better in the encroaching darkness. Eight. I could easily discern the three yellow Buff Orpingtons. The difference between the black Australorps and the Golden Laced Wyandottes was a lot harder to make out.

It was a Wyandotte that was missing. It figures. They are often turning up as the odd hen out.

I had one more place to check. Opening the side doors to the nesting boxes relieved my fright. She was just keeping an egg warm, that’s all.

Or, she was thinking about spending the night there. Not allowed!

I slid a hand beneath her to feel for an egg. That was all it took for her to decide she was ready to hop up on the roost with the rest of her brood.

That egg was a lot warmer than the two I gathered from other boxes at the same time.

Nothing to be frightened about here. Carry on.

Good luck with governing to all the candidates who received the majority of votes yesterday! Feel free to use your new responsibilities to make the world a better place for all.

At the very least, let’s hope they find a way to give us less to be frightened about than what has become usual fare from the halls of power in this U.S. of A.

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Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2018 at 7:00 am

New Prowler

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Cyndie and I understand that we are rarely alone on our evening outings to walk the dog, even though most nocturnal visitors go undetected. It’s usually apparent when Delilah recognizes we have company, if she picks up a fresh scent and strains against the leash with startling urgency, but even she fails to notice sometimes.

I always wonder what might be just out of the reach of my headlamp. Occasionally, the sudden rustling of branches startles me when it is a deer that finally decides it’s time to bolt away from the too interested dog making lunges in their general direction.

Last night, Cyndie didn’t get out to shut the chicken coop until it was pretty dark outside. As she and Delilah arrived near the coop, Cyndie heard a rustling that alerted her to make a hasty approach. She hooked Delilah’s leash to the paddock fence and rushed to close the chicken door.

The scuffling sound moved from the leaves on the ground to the branches of a small tree just two steps from the coop.

Hello there, opossum. What brings you to our free-range chicken’s neighborhood?

We’re thinking we might not want to wait so long to get the coop secured for the night any more.

I wonder if the raccoons, skunks, barn cats, fox, neighbor dogs, and now, opossums around here are all friendly with each other, or if they actually avoid interacting somehow in their frequent evening forays through our territory.

It’s been like Grand Central Station lately with the visiting critters. Maybe they have booked tickets on different successive days.

At bedtime Sunday night, there were two beady masked eyes peering in our bedroom door from 4-inches off the deck. I think the snoop was hoping to get another glimpse of Pequenita. The cat was ferociously trying to scare off a curious raccoon a while back, but instead of fear, that evening the visitor looked rather smitten.

Cyndie said she decided to avoid further interaction with last night’s opossum. With the horses all bunched nearby in the corner of the paddock to see what all the fuss was about, and Delilah tied nearby, Cyndie didn’t know how the tree rat would react if she challenged it.

Might have just “played possum,” but she decided not to tempt a more chaotic result.

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 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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Damage Found

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We were pretty surprised that the dramatic hail storm we experienced last week didn’t result in any obvious damage. It took a few days, but Cyndie finally did notice some wounds to the chicken coop.

On Tuesday, as we sat down to dinner during the early stages of that night’s flooding rain storm, Cyndie remembered to tell me about her find. She showed me a picture on her phone that was taken so close I couldn’t completely discern the angle of what I was seeing.

She said there were holes in the plastic on the coop and my mind jumped immediately to the roof panels. I freaked. How could she be so calm when there were holes in the roof and it was raining like crazy?

She said she didn’t think it would be a problem. I couldn’t understand her reasoning and hopped up from dinner to run out in the rain and see for myself. I was thinking we had to, at the very least, try putting a tarp over the roof.

It wasn’t the roof.

It was the window cover.

They are much thinner plastic than the roof panels. Actually, I’m impressed that the roof panels withstood the beating by such large hail stones.

Since only that one window cover was damaged, we now have a pretty good idea of the angle from which the hail fell.

Cyndie was right. Those holes weren’t a problem during the overnight deluge.

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Written by johnwhays

September 7, 2018 at 6:00 am

Aw Heck

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Two chickens missing at bed check last night. No evidence visible in the low light of evening to account for their absence.

We knew this was likely to occur eventually, but, of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Cyndie’s audit identified the missing birds as a buff orpington and a golden laced wyandotte.

A survey for any sign of feathers dropped will commence after daylight this morning.

It’s enough to make you shake your head, going bonkers…

Hunter knows how to do it. That’s his cow face.

I think he was shaking off flies when I happened to snap that photo.

Those pesky flies love the eyes.

I bet the horses know what happened to the two missing chickens. I haven’t mastered the level of communication with them that would enable me to hear their version of the story.

Well after dark last night, I thought I might have heard coyotes in the distance. Maybe it was just my mind’s effort to provide an explanation for the unknown. Coyotes would seem a logical possibility, although, a certain fox would be an even more plausible alternative.

There was no memory card in the trail cam at the time, so the culprit(s) will probably remain unidentified.

For the immediate future, the plan for the 10 chickens still with us is to confine them to their coop. There’s no reason to believe this will solve anything, but it just feels better to take some kind of action against an unknown foe.

Maybe this will spur the hens on to make full use of those fabulous nest boxes in there. We’ve still only found 4 of the small eggs associated with the start of their laying career. That leaves six who have yet to reach this milestone of maturity.

We are even more vested now in hoping the rest will live long enough to get there.

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Written by johnwhays

August 8, 2018 at 6:00 am

Quickly Fixed

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The chickens finally did in the ramp of woven sticks leading up to their door into the coop. In trying to mend it, the outer braces let loose and I pretty much ended up rebuilding the whole thing.

Unfortunately, many of the old twigs had lost the necessary flexibility. They snapped before I could bend them into position. Cyndie showed up and helped scout some greener specimens among the random growth nearby.

Then she grabbed my camera and documented the process.

Luckily, there is no sound with the images, so my verbal frustration over the breaking sticks was not captured.

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Just like that, it is complete again. I asked the chickens to leave it alone this time.

I’ll let you know how well that works out.

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Written by johnwhays

July 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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