Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

Not Surprising

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I received another weather warning on my phone last night. This time, it wasn’t about another round of plowable snow, but it comes as no surprise that they’ve issued a flood watch for our county. So, it’s out of the frying pan snow machine and into the fire hip waders for us this week.

Oh, joy.

We’ve got so much snow that our 3-board fence looks short enough in some spots that the horses could high-step their way over it. I think the only thing dissuading them from trying is the deepness of the snow on the other side.

We are due to get significant rain tomorrow and Thursday, without anywhere for it to soak in. There are bound to be a number of new rivers and lakes formed in the days ahead.

We’ll probably have the horses in the barn while it is raining, and the chickens will be given the option of venturing out at their own peril, but I’m not confident either of their structures will stay dry.

At least the coop is on stilts. The wood is shrunk from the dry winter air, so there are some gaps in places, I suspect, but it swells up nicely when it gets wet, so that just leaves drips from a few leaky screws in the roof panels.

The barn, on the other hand, is already suffering from areas that were once standing water that subsequently froze and rendered the two big sliding doors inoperable. More water on top of the old ice will not only make that situation worse, it will inevitably start flowing toward the lower ground available inside.

Thank goodness our house is at the top of a hill.

It is not surprising that they chose this spot on which to build.

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

Long Day

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When I finished fixing the winch cable on the ATV after work Monday, Cyndie helped me get the plow re-mounted so I could clean up the driveway from the morning drift adventure. It had been a long day, so I made short work of the task and headed inside to warm up.

Cyndie asked if I thought it was late enough that the chickens would be in the coop yet. That’s code for, “Will you be the one to go down and close the chickens in for the night?”

I spotted them after I’d taken just a few steps off the driveway. They weren’t inside, they were on the manure pile in the compost area.

I suppose it was warmer footing than standing in the snow. Cyndie had mucked out the stalls earlier in the afternoon and the chickens seemed to take a liking to the fresh addition on top of the snow.

After taking that picture of them, I tried to get the hens to follow me to the coop. They didn’t fall for it, I think because to get there on the shoveled pathway, required starting in the opposite direction of the coop. I got the impression their little chicken brains weren’t processing the logic.

Heck, I’ve even seen the horses, wise as we know them to be, appear to get stuck when an escape involved going away from the direction they ultimately want to achieve.

I walked to the coop without them. To waste some time while waiting for them to figure out the escape route, I started breaking trails in the deep snow around the area. Plodding down a trail that heads toward the shop garage, it occurred to me to open a path between the coop and the compost piles, for the chickens to use. One pass through the deep snow didn’t do much in the way of packing it down to make it easy for bird feet, so this didn’t offer an immediate shortcut. It did, however, bring me up behind the chickens in a way that naturally moved them off the pile in the opposite direction from the coop.

Once I had them moving, I just kept the pressure on, and created a little conga line going down the path toward their nighttime shelter, with me leading from the rear. It was pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

They marched right up the modified ramp (post-possum-crashing incident) and I was able to slide the door shut behind them. Chickens were ready to roost.

It was an entertaining end to my surprisingly long day.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

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

All Day

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Two all day things: It snowed all day yesterday and we shoveled all day. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

On Wednesday night, we noticed all the school districts in our vicinity were announcing they would be closed on Thursday, so I decided that was a pretty good clue that I shouldn’t try driving to the day-job. As a result, I am going in today, in a swap of days for my 4-day work week.

Sitting at my desk today will be a welcome relief from the strenuous exercise of shoveling for hours on end.

I took a little break to see what the horses thought of all these flying flakes. Cyndie caught a picture of Dezirea and me giving each other the eye. I think the horses were growing weary of the long duration of snowfall.

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Cayenne was sporting some cute curls in her long wet winter growth.

I got out the snowshoes to walk Delilah on our trails through the woods. She was so fired up to be out in the deep snow that she wanted to run, but I couldn’t keep up with her at that pace. I felt bad slowing her down.

The chickens showed no interest in leaving the coop. I snowshoed all around the coop to pack down the snow for whenever they decide to come out again. It’s probably going to be too cold for them today, but eventually, they will get tired of being cooped up (literally!) and venture out into the world again.

We have one Buff Orpington that doesn’t seem to be her normal self. We think she may have scrapped with that possum and be suffering some ill effects as a result. Cyndie couldn’t see any obvious physical wounds, so we have decided to just keep her comfortable and see if time heals whatever might be bothering her.

Today, I’m hoping to not do any shoveling all day. I’m expecting to be confused by this disruption of my normal routine, commuting and being at work on a Friday.

I expect it’s going to make my weekend seem unusually short, but my body will appreciate today’s break in the manual labor of property management chores.

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2019 at 7:00 am

No Mercy

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Graphic Content Warning of Life and Death on a Farm…

It was a gloomy and foggy morning. I offered to build a fire in the fireplace while Cyndie went out to do morning chores, tending to our animals. When I stepped out on the slippery deck in my house slippers to gather kindling, I picked up the unnerving sobs of pain and sorrow wafting within the soup of grayness that covered our land.

I called out to the fog, not having any idea which way the sound was coming from.

“Cyndie?!”

No reply.

I moved around on the deck, trying to get a sense of which direction her cries were coming from. It changed from right to left. I called again and again, but she didn’t reply. I grew angry because I wanted to know if she was injured and what I needed to do in response, standing now on the icy driveway in my slippers.

She was walking upright, and carrying something, so I guessed she was alright. The most likely problem was a dead chicken.

Finally, I demanded a response and she angrily growled that she had killed a possum that had gotten in the chicken coop and killed one of our Australorps.

How did it get in? Cyndie didn’t know. There was no indication of disruption around any of the doorways or windows.

The logical deduction: the critter had already snuck inside when the chicken door was closed last night.

Never underestimate the wrath of a mother reacting to harm of her precious brood. With lethal vengeance, Cyndie unleashed her grievance with a shovel, destroying my custom ramp in the process.

She admitted that any neighbors outside at the time probably heard an earful of expletives howled along with swings of the shovel.

There are now eight surviving hens and they seem very happy to be out of the coop, soaking up the above-freezing temperatures that are the source of all this fog.

The temperature climbed 75 degrees from Thursday morning’s -36°F to yesterday afternoon’s +39°F. Our thermometer reveals it didn’t drop back down below freezing overnight here, so the melting and thawing is in full swing.

The horses seem pretty pleased with the change, too. Free of their blankets, they were romping all over the paddock yesterday, running and kicking with gleeful energy.

This morning, Cyndie and I aren’t really feeling as much glee.

We are left wondering if recent events mean we will need to institute a full nook & cranny search of the coop every night from now on when we close the chicken access door at dusk.

I guess it beats the alternative we faced this morning.

 

Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2019 at 10:59 am

Mist, Continued

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I don’t have anything particularly dramatic to add to yesterday’s narration, but a couple humorous tidbits that Cyndie shared last night continue the themes.

I carefully (slowly) made my way to the interstate in the morning and didn’t have any problems driving the rest of the way. I texted Cyndie when I got to work, letting her know travel was possible, as she needed to drive through the cities, as well.

In the afternoon, she was miles ahead of me on the way home, and she sounded the alert that road conditions of the last few miles were still bad. She couldn’t even make it up the driveway. Her car just slid sideways on the slope by the shop garage.

She parked by the barn and precariously made her way up to the house to get driveway salt to scatter.

My car rolled right up that slope without slipping. I’m just sayin’.

I’m ready for a change of weather. Unfortunately, the forecast is all about a polar vortex of Arctic cold headed our way next. Snow seems to be a slim probability.

Later in the evening, after Cyndie returned from closing the coop, she had this to report: As usual, there was a hen squeezed onto the 2×4 over the side window, but this time, it was one of the Australorps. That top perch is usually claimed by one of the Wyandottes.

Cyndie said there was a lone Wyandotte on the near roost gesticulating obvious dissatisfaction with the arrangement.

It’s not just the horses who are wrangling over who’s highest in the pecking order around here.

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Freezing Mist

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Now, this. What did we do to deserve this? My commute home from work yesterday afternoon was one of the least complicated in my memory, right up until the last ten miles. Then things got serious.

Thank goodness for my Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive Subaru vehicle with Traction Control and an Anti-Lock Braking System. Before the changing road conditions were even visible, my car alerted me to the increasingly slippery conditions.

Most of the day was a dreary, gloomy gray, with temperatures just above freezing, and a hint of wetness in the air and on the ground. When I left Plymouth, MN, it just seemed damp outside. I barely needed to use wipers throughout my drive, as the moisture wasn’t collecting on the glass.

Things changed after I had turned southeast and passed through River Falls, WI. Within five miles of home, I slowed to make a lazy left turn from the state highway to a county road. However, I hadn’t slowed enough for the invisible icing hazard, which triggered the Traction Control to suddenly kick in and instantly grab my attention.

I touched the brake to drop some of my momentum and the Anti-Lock vibrated for added emphasis. I would drive the rest of the way home with extreme care.

After turning off the county road onto the local streets, I came over a rise and spotted the telltale marks of tires sliding in an oscillating fish tale pattern, and the car perched up ahead in the first few rows of a harvested corn field. I couldn’t stop to offer any support, because there was nowhere safe to pull over, and I wasn’t sure I could get my car to stop.

Luckily, it was close to two farms where they would have equipment to help. I wouldn’t have been able to offer more than moral support.

Poor Delilah lost her feet right away on the front steps when we headed out for a walk. The conditions on our land have gone from bad to worse. Areas that were icy before are now glazed smoother than a freshly resurfaced hockey rink. Rocks, cement, and asphalt, all have a coating that is deceptively and heart-stoppingly slippery.

The absurd wickedness of navigating around here on foot has gotten morbidly comical.

As darkness set in, I very carefully made my way down to close the chicken door to the coop. As we always do, I opened the big door to peek in and count hens. Eight. I found eight. Dang it! There were just nine of them milling about around there fifteen minute before.

I counted four times, then made my way up the treacherous climb to the house to get a flashlight. Slipping my way back down again, it struck me that I had only looked at one side in the coop, toward the roosts. There were seven on the roost and one that is typically up on the 2×4 framing over the small side window.

Aiming my flashlight through the window to the opposite side, I found hen number nine, deftly perched above the other side window. Whew!

As I climbed back up toward the house one more time, I captured a shot of the shiny glaze forming on the driveway and the wisps of mist reflecting in the beam of my flashlight.

I expect driving this morning will be a real slippery trip on the local back roads.

It might take me more than the usual hour to get in to work today.

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