Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

Bad Decision

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It has been a while since I used the Grizzly ATV. Last time I had it out, I decided to park it in the hay shed since we no longer need to store hay in there. That turned out to be a bad decision.

Maybe birds don’t like the Grizzly and they were sending a message.

If I had parked it one foot over in either direction, they would have at least missed the seat. It was positioned directly beneath a joist where they perch. Just lovely.

I posted a message to the neighborhood group for input on our fisher sighting. Nobody else has reported similar. We still have all eight chickens, despite visible signs where the critter had dug to get in and out of the barn. Luckily, the chickens aren’t ever in the barn. We keep the doors shut.

There were no visitors to the chicken coop in the last twenty hours other than Cyndie and the chickens, based on the surveillance of the trail camera.

Maybe the fisher is more interested in moles and voles than chickens. After mowing yesterday, it became obvious there are plenty of burrowing rodents active across our land.

That’s probably why the big weasel showed up. It’s here to rid our yard of pesky moles.

See how I visualize the outcome I desire?

I’ll let you know how well it works. (I’m guessing not so well in this case when delivered with a heavy amount of sarcasm.).l

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Written by johnwhays

August 17, 2019 at 7:59 am

Who’s This?

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We have a new intruder on the property, one we didn’t even recognize. When Delilah triggered on something in one of the stalls in the barn, Cyndie reeled in the leash to keep them separated and stepped up to snap a photo of the mysterious critter.

Do you know what this is?

We searched a range of wild animal images and whittled our way down to this: fisher.

This led to more questions than answers. Is it just passing through? Was it seeking a chicken dinner? Why was it out in the daylight?

Cyndie brought Delilah up to the house, grabbed my pocket camera and headed back to the barn in hopes of capturing a better image. By the time she got there, the animal had vanished.

Where did it go?

Cyndie subsequently made multiple trips out to check on the chickens, just in case. By sundown, all eight hens were secure on the roost in the coop.

In a curious side note, we have not been finding very many eggs in the nest boxes lately. Oddly, Cyndie found an egg on the ground outside the coop this afternoon. We don’t know what’s going on there.

Maybe the fisher is smart enough to take eggs instead of hens. Wouldn’t want to harm the golden goose chicken.

Time to set up the trail cam again, I guess.

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

Didn’t Hear

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If a tree falls…

We didn’t hear a thing, but there is another tree across the trail along our western border. I’m not sure there was even a storm that occurred here since that tree came down, although it was rather windy yesterday.

It was a hot wind for the most part, although the high dew point of 78°(F) caused enough sweating that the air moving across wet skin provided a nice cooling effect. I monitored the storm activity going on to the north all day yesterday, and witnessed some serious damage from hail and downed trees, but the thunderstorms never spread down to us.

I should be more thankful, but part of me feels like we missed out on a big shift of conditions that storms provide. Our temperature and humidity just quietly eased a little overnight. This morning the thunderstorm activity is sliding across just to our south, showing an outside possibility of reaching us before the day is out.

Apparently, Delilah didn’t hear or smell the deer that was laying about 10 feet off the trail this morning. She obviously didn’t see it, despite the rather obvious way the light brown color stood out against the dark earth and green foliage of the surroundings. I decided not to stop for a photo in order to allow this brave animal to remain in place as a reward for it trusting we were not a threat.

I offered a greeting as I passed and we continued on our way. I found it humorous that further along our walk along that perimeter trail, Delilah showed signs she smelled something of interest in the middle of our forest. Her behavior conveyed, “Hey! There are deer in there! Can I go see them?”

Too late now, pooch.

We had a date with the chicken coop to open the hatch and clean the poop board.

I’m pretty sure the hens heard us coming. They started up a chorus of pleas to be freed for a day of free-ranging bug feasting.

I was more than happy to oblige them.

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Written by johnwhays

July 20, 2019 at 7:07 am

Coop Life

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The eight hens that have successfully braved all challenges in the last year are keeping us entertained and well stocked with eggs.

We are currently considering an enhancement in the form of an automated chicken access door so we don’t need to be home to open and close the door at dawn and dusk every day. It will probably become the most expensive feature on the coop since I built the bulk of it out of found materials, but it will increase our freedom to be away from home without a lot of preplanning.

That will give the hens even more autonomy in their shelter.

We’ve noticed lately that they have started to decorate the inside of the coop with some greenery.

Okay, so they aren’t doing it intentionally. It just feels good to imagine them bringing life to their home with the addition of live plants.

The color is a nice compliment to the maroon curtains hanging in front of their nest boxes.

The coop is becoming a real home sweet home.

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Written by johnwhays

May 29, 2019 at 6:00 am

New Ramp

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Our chickens have been politely accepting the replacement ramp Cyndie fashioned out of some spare wire shelving, after her incidental demolition of my original ramp, when she killed the possum multiple times with a shovel back in February. But, the replacement was intended to be temporary, so I have been plotting “Ramp 2.0” for some time.

I’m not sure it will be shovel proof, but I did try to beef it up a little bit. The chickens took a liking to pulling out the sticks in my first version, so I increased the weave to hopefully slow that process.

Initially, I tried grinding notches in the cross braces, hoping to “key” the branches to seat tightly together. It ended up being a wasted effort, as my technique was rather imprecise and the frame branches kept torquing and twisting out of the sweet spots as I wove sticks through.

Since I increased the weave, adding two smaller vertical branches, it became critical that I find sticks that could really flex. The solution came to me after winter storms brought down a massive number of branches from our willow tree this year.

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On a return trip to the tree for more material, I noticed there were some new branches sprouting from the trunk that were destined to be pruned, so I included those, as well. It was very helpful to have the “live” branches, because the closer I got to finishing, the less space there was to angle the branches into the tight bend required.

Gives it a little color.

Since the notched frame branches had shifted out of position, I decided to add some screws to lock things in place after the weave was complete. It is definitely more robust than the first ramp I built.

With that, the new ramp was ready to be mounted on the coop for chickens to test.

I am interested in finding out if they will try to disassemble this one as much as they did the first ramp. Something about little sticks that seemed to just call to the chickens. I don’t think they could help themselves. It was irresistible.

Maybe they won’t like willow branches and will just leave it alone. I have my doubts about that wishful thinking. Then what it will come down to is, whether my two additional vertical branches (the warp) will be enough to discourage the chickens from trying to pull (the weft) branches out.

Worst case, I need to collect more willow branches. Luckily, that tree seems to offer up an unending supply.

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Written by johnwhays

April 22, 2019 at 6:00 am

Still Functioning

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It’s one of those days when the dog woke me too early and I feel like everything I’m observing is a movie in which I am not one of the characters. I guess that describes the majority of my dreams, so that is understandable. I slogged through the morning routine of walking Delilah and opening up the chicken coop, got all the animals fed, and here I sit.

Somehow, most things continue to function, including me, despite the inevitable march of time and natural inclination toward decay. The constant shifting of the earth is toying mercilessly with our fences, creating a laughingstock of my sense of order. The ramshackle construction of my chicken coop has resulted in two of the three main latches becoming mis-aligned to the point I wasn’t able to fully secure the side egg-collecting hatch last night.

Luckily, no predators noticed.

I’m told Cyndie made it back to Minnesota last night, but she arrived so late to her parents’ Edina home where her car was parked that she ended up spending the night there.

I wondered if Delilah got up early because she had understood me when I told her momma would be home when she woke up. I’d already put her to bed when the change of plans occurred.

One thing I didn’t miss while sleepily stumbling through walking Delilah this morning was the rich orchestral soundtrack of bird sounds filling the air. In addition to the chickens, pheasants, wild turkeys, and low flying geese, there were staccato drummings of woodpeckers and more varieties of songbirds than I could count. An unparalleled chorus.

Too bad I’m not as quick recording sound for you as I am at taking pictures. Of course, this morning, I didn’t even do that.

I’m still functioning, but just barely.

A warm sunny day would do wonders for my outlook, but that’s not what we have in store for today’s weather. More clouds and rain are on the way.

Sounds like maybe I could justify a nap. One where I can dream a movie of sunshine and straight fences, and latches that align while all the birds sing.

Speaking of finding myself in a movie, did I mention yet that I’ve been called for jury duty in my county in Wisconsin? The term here is 30 days, but I believe I’m released after serving one trial. I’ve been ordered to appear for a trial scheduled this Thursday and Friday, but need to call on Wednesday evening to find out if they settle out of court.

Along those same lines of barely functioning, I’m hoping for restful sleep Wednesday night, because I really don’t want to be one of those jurors who get chastised for falling asleep on the job.

Didn’t I see that in a movie somewhere?

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2019 at 8:32 am

Daytime Sighting

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Our dog, Delilah, has so many episodes of freaking out over something she sees or hears through our doors and windows that we have grown numb to her outbursts. It is rare that I bother looking anymore to see what squirrel/rabbit/bird is triggering her tizzy.

Of course, there was the time last summer when we finally checked and discovered she was barking about that group of 10 cows that had found their way up near our bedroom window. Her reaction that time was totally justified.

Last night, we were up in the loft when she revved up over something she spotted in the back yard through the French doors. Since I had a similar view without needing to get up, I turned to check it out.

There was a raccoon sauntering across our yard in broad daylight, unfortunately, directly toward the chicken coop. I rushed down to track its path and was able to see it climb up a large tree and disappear, high up inside the main trunk. Just a short distance further ahead, the chickens were calmly combing the deep leaves on the ground among the trees.

Our chicken coop, when buttoned up for the night, is well secured against raccoon intrusion. Regular readers may recall we got duped by a possum that snuck inside during the day and killed one of our hens over night after we shut the door at sunset.

Now we check all the nooks when we count the chickens and close the door for the night. The usual evening report used to simply list the number of hens secured, but now it always includes the affirmation of the coop being predator-free, as well.

Unfortunately, since we have chosen to free-range our chickens, they are easy prey during daylight hours. One reason a raccoon will be out during the daytime (other than maybe being sick with rabies or dysentery) is because of hunger. That is not a good omen in such close proximity to where our chickens hang out.

I tossed a treat of dried mealworms in the pan of feed yesterday afternoon.

It was a BIG hit. They came after me looking for more:

We collected seven new home-laid eggs yesterday.

At least the hens are putting those worms to good use.

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