Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

Not Chickens

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It appears our great survivors, the three chickens, are not interested in what winter has to offer. Since Monday night when the weather made that snap decision to swing from balmy to frigid, covering the land with an ice-crust topped with a layer of wind-whipped snow, our chickens have not left the confines of their coop.

Cyndie opens the small door for them, but they don’t venture out.

These little footsteps Cyndie photographed in a framing that looks very “John-like,” are not from our once-brave venturers.

These cute prints are those of a turkey. The wild turkeys haven’t let a little snow and frozen ground stop them from strolling around the property.

Have you ever wondered where wild turkeys are laying their eggs? Maybe we should invite the wild birds to stop by our coop to convince the chickens that winter isn’t so bad, and while they are there, they can lay an egg for us.

Cyndie also captured the shot below of a loner on its way off our property, into the underbrush of the neighbor’s woods.

They certainly don’t have that same friendly demeanor as our domesticated chickens. The excited wobbling sprint toward us that our chickens do when they find us outside is really something to behold.

I’m hoping we don’t have to wait for spring before they come out of the coop and run around again.

The weekend forecast is hinting of a possible above-freezing high temperature on Sunday, so maybe that will inspire a chicken outing.

I’m home today and on my own for the weekend, because Cyndie is traveling out-of-town for a conference. The chickens won’t have momma home to look after them. I expect it will be no shock to them that I do things differently than Cyndie.

I’ve witnessed the horses adjusting their behavior to our different styles of processing the steps to feed and clean up after them. I think the chickens probably respond similarly.

I suppose the same thing is happening with Delilah, but my perception of the change in her is a little different. It seems less like she is reacting differently to me and more like she is moping at the door for hours on end in desperate anticipation that momma might be returning soon.

Hopefully, I won’t be bothering the dog with all my ‘bachelor-weekend’ wild behavior. I’m gonna drink milk out of the bottle and leave my stuff on whichever surface it lands. I may walk in the house with my boots on and leave drawers open in the bathroom.

By Sunday night, it’ll be back to the disciplined life of being a well-fed married man and the chickens can get back to their pleasure of in-coop full-service hospitality.

Huzzah!

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Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2017 at 7:00 am

Low View

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If you are thinking about visiting Wintervale this weekend to get a taste of forest management and tree removal, don’t for a minute wonder whether you will get to spend some time with our horses or chickens. They are essential ambassadors of the healthy loving energy available here every day.

When I was sitting with the horses in the paddock last weekend, eye-level with the chickens, I captured some images from the atypical vantage point.

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If the horses decide not to wander across the hay-field to see what we are up to by the road, I’ll make sure breaks from the lumberjack work will include a stop at the barn.

The chickens won’t wait. I’ll be surprised if they haven’t offered a greeting before visitors have time to walk away from their vehicles upon arrival. Our three survivors have mastered the ability to show up in a blink, or silently disappear like ghosts when our heads are turned.

I expect that has contributed to their free-ranging longevity.

On Tuesday, as I made the final turn onto our road coming home from work, I spotted a stray dog that looked very guilty and appeared to be chewing on something at the edge of a recently harvested corn field. I was very glad to hear from Cyndie that our three were home, and safe.

Speaking of potential threats to chickens, Cyndie says she and Delilah came upon a bobcat recently while on their morning walk. It gave them a moment of a stare, and then bounded off into the woods. This was before Cyndie had opened the coop for the day, so the chickens weren’t immediately at risk.

Honestly, I don’t know how they’ve lasted as long as they have since that fateful evening of June 16th when something took six hens before they had settled into the coop for the night.

These three really are survivors.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2017 at 7:00 am

Finishing Something

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Far be it for me to stay on one project all the way to fruition. Instead of finishing the fence we started on Friday, I let the weather move my focus to something else. Luckily, the change of direction let me toward the completion of wiring AC power to the chicken coop.

Like so many other occasions, after accomplishing the hardest part of the job – like getting the wire buried between the coop and barn– I have a tendency to lose momentum. That initial dose of job-satisfaction can be enough that my sense of urgency to complete tasks dissipates.

Just when the end of a tunnel is in sight, I discover a side route that hijacks my attention.

This day, I headed back down the primary path in the tunnel of electrifying the coop.

First, I removed the panel of the circuit breaker box and made connections to a GFI breaker.

Next, I set about getting the electrical box mounted in the coop. This only required two extra trips back to the shop for tools, hardware, and a modification to the box.

Things were progressing slower than I wanted, but without any insurmountable problems. The one big interruption I needed to work around was the unplanned arrival of a chicken.

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It was late enough in the day that I assumed I wouldn’t be a bother to the chickens while I worked, but our Buff Orpington proved me wrong. She puttered around in the nest box right beneath where I was working, so I just kept at it, hoping she wouldn’t be bothered by me.

After she started to stress out a bit, I took the hint and agreed to take a break, closing things up enough to give her all the privacy I thought she might need.

For whatever unknown reason, that wasn’t enough. After watching the last quarter of the Vikings game, I came back to take my project across the finish line, only to find the hen still in the nest box. Really.

Not to be deterred, I assembled a few objects into a barrier for her so I could forge ahead with my work. It is the first time I ever listened to a chicken lay an egg.

Before the day was over, the coop outlet was live, everything was buttoned up, and all tools were put away.

Yes, finished. That’s a special level of satisfaction.

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2017 at 6:00 am

Adding Electricity

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Despite the sweltering heat and humidity bathing our first day of autumn, freezing temperatures are not too far off, so work has begun to add electricity to the chicken coop. With an outlet available, we will have the option to provide a waterer that won’t freeze and maybe a light or heat lamp, depending on the situation.

On my third attempt to drill through the floor and miss a stud or screw, we were able to pull wire up for an outlet box. Then we trenched.

 

The chickens seemed to take great interest in our progress. Maybe they sense this is for them?

We are over halfway to the barn circuit breaker box this morning, so I’m optimistic I can get it done by winter.

Maybe I have some skills in procrastination. Time will tell.

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Written by johnwhays

September 24, 2017 at 9:02 am

It’s Curious

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For as much of my life as is now committed to caring for our property and animals, I find it curious that I can still have a series of days with very little contact to them. Yesterday, in celebration of our anniversary, we went out to dinner in Hudson after I got home from work.

When we returned after dark, I dropped Cyndie off at the barn so she could make her way to the chicken coop to close their access door for the night. I parked the car in the garage and headed inside to start my evening routine.

Tonight, I will be meeting the family at a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis to celebrate Julian’s birthday. This will lead to another night of arriving home after dark, not even seeing either the horses or chickens.

During my work weeks, it can happen that I’m completely disconnected from the activities of our ranch for a few days. It’s a little disorienting for me.

Especially since the most orienting thing of all for me is when I am able to spend time with our animals.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2017 at 6:00 am

Final Step

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It starts out as luscious green grass. The horses eat it and their bodies process it. They spread it on the ground for me to scoop up and shape into big piles. In the piles, microorganisms take action and the temperature climbs to around 160° (F). Eventually, things settle down and the pile cools.

At that point, it’s ready for use feeding growing things which puts that luscious green back where it came from at the start. The final step is loading some bags for sharing our wealth with others.

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My project yesterday was a little more involved than usual after the chickens showed up to offer assistance. Their version of helping seems to always involve getting as much in the way as they possibly can. I tried negotiating with them, but it seems as though they don’t understand English.

Compost work was interrupted by lunch, after which our attention shifted to the north pasture. With Cyndie assisting, we pulled the posts with a chain and the loader bucket of the diesel tractor, which cleared the way for me to mow the overgrown field.

Well, not exactly. The evergreen trees in that field have gotten so big, the tractor doesn’t fit between many of them anymore. It becomes a maze of weaving around groups of trees that are often too close together to provide easy weaving.

It was certainly more trouble than I could manage, in terms of getting the field to look decently mowed. I did achieve a wonderful version of the ‘bad haircut.’

The night ended with a small setback, as the chickens made their way into the tree over the compost piles again before we could entice them to the coop. It seems as though the training for that may not have a final step, but will be a repeating exercise for some time to come.

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Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Highly Effective

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I’m very impressed with the effort put forth by our three surviving chickens to hunt and peck all day long in an ever-expanding range away from their coop and beloved tree perch. It has me believing a full flock of the nine we once had would have been a highly effective insect control method.

Our two Plymouth Rocks and one Buff Orpington surprised me last night by showing up out of nowhere to hang out around me while I moved some hay from the shed to the barn. They subtly tagged along toward where I moved when I cleaned up manure in the paddock, and then followed me to the compost area.

All the while they keep scratching away and gobbling everything they uncover. Nonstop machines, they are.

Luckily, they followed me down to the chicken coop when I took some measurements for modifications. It was easy to get them inside for another day of re-training to their proper night perch. I’m feeling a new inspiration to find a way to accommodate the addition of new birds.

The hay I was moving is the most recent we purchased. By all our still rather novice understandings, this batch seems to be top notch. The horses will be the ultimate judges.

We have purchased old hay from this supplier before, which the horses took to without hesitation, so we are optimistic the fresh bales should be well received.

They look good, smell good, and have the right percentage of moisture. With the addition of new doors on the shed, we can now store the bales out of the bleaching rays of constant sunlight, so were are feeling a bit more at ease over keeping our horses properly fed for the coming season.

Just in time to allow us to put attention to getting more chickens and figuring out how to manage all the details of coping with the challenges of caring for them over winter.

What could possibly go wrong there?

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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