Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

Mist, Continued

with 4 comments

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.

.

.

Freezing Mist

leave a comment »

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.

.

.

.

.

.

Well, Hello

leave a comment »

Here’s the thing, I was home alone last night, tending to chores while Cyndie was out. I had finished feeding and cleaning up after the horses, and walked Delilah, but the chickens weren’t quite ready to turn in for the night. It was another beautiful evening, so I suppose they were taking full advantage of it.

After killing a few minutes back in the house with dog and cat, I noticed it was probably dark enough to go close the chicken door. It is such a brief trip, I chose to leave Delilah inside, but did tuck my headlamp in a pocket, just in case it was too dark inside the coop to easily do a head count.

It wasn’t too dark, and I could see that the one Wyandotte that chose to perch against the wall above the window (well above all the others on the roost) just so happened to be the hen missing head feathers. A possible clue that something is setting her apart from the others. Whether it’s her choice or theirs, we don’t yet know.

Anyway, this is beside the point. I didn’t need the headlamp. Well, not until later. After dinner, I wanted to work on one of my creative projects, and noticed my headlamp wasn’t in the drawer where I keep it.

Who took my headlamp?

Oh, yeah, that was me. I had put it in my pocket when I went out to close the coop. But then, why wasn’t it still in my pocket?

This time, I decided to let Delilah come with me. I was guessing the lamp had fallen out of my pocket on the run down to the coop. With a different flashlight in hand, we set out to backtrack my route.

While Delilah mostly obscured my view of the trail, I staggered to keep up with her while scanning the path as best I could. As we got close to the coop, it became obvious that Delilah wasn’t just in her normal rush, she was frantically straining against the leash to get at something.

When I looked up to see what she was after, two little red dots were reflecting the beam of my flashlight right back at me.

Delilah was right in front of it at this point, and I suddenly had to juggle the dang flashlight and her leash to reel her back toward me. The critter just sat, staring. It looked to be about cat-sized, but it seemed odd to me that it hadn’t executed a mad dash in the face of Delilah’s rather threatening level of interest.

Despite our canine’s freaky level of urgency to be granted access, I successfully clipped the locked leash to a tree so that I could make a solo approach for identification.

Well, hello possum.

It stared intensely at Delilah, not up toward me as I stood right in front of it, beside the front door of the chicken coop.

It likely showed up to scrounge the bounty of chicken food off the ground that the hens kick out of the pan we set out during the day.

I got all growly and menacing and the pest finally turned and skittered into the underbrush.

Shortly afterward, I located my headlamp in the snow and everyone lived happily throughout the rest of the night.

No pics of the adventures in the darkness, but this is the lovely face of our wee one who joined me when I crawled into bed at my bewitching hour:

Well, hello there Pequenita!

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 18, 2018 at 7:00 am

Lone Straggler

leave a comment »

Apparently, a pattern is developing with one of our Buff Orpingtons, that she lags behind the group when it comes time to return to the coop for the night. Cyndie describes a funny scene that happened the other night when she was feeding and cleaning up after the horses.

The chickens tend to congregate under the overhang at times, but we don’t want them in the barn, so it becomes an added hassle to navigate the door while going in and out during chores when they are present. Cyndie had shooshed them out, but one Buff stayed after the others wandered off toward the coop.

After the sun had disappeared below the horizon, that Buff showed signs of wanting to return to the coop, but acted rather timid about trekking through the snow to get there. She would get only so far and turn and run back to the preferred confines with the horses under the overhang… several times.

Cyndie finally made the trip herself, and had to coax the hen to follow her the whole way.

Silly bird.

Last night, I went down to shut the chicken door for the evening, and when I got there in the dim light of dusk, it was all quiet, but for occasional sleepy cooing from inside. I spent an extra minute or two clearing the track for the door so it would slide all the way, and that was enough time to give me the feeling all was settled in there for the night.

It was a pleasantly quiet time and the fading gradient of orange glow transitioning to blue-black of night on the horizon was gorgeous. I was just about to head back to the house when my conscience urged me to truly confirm all were present and accounted for before leaving.

Thank goodness for that.

I opened the big door to peek in and counted eight bundles of feathers. Luckily, in the low light remaining, I could tell it was a Buff that was missing. Not thinking of Cyndie’s recent tale, I feared the worst. I had already lingered long enough to know she wasn’t anywhere near the coop. 

Where would I look for her body, I wondered.

I stepped away from the coop, toward the barn, and what do I find?

That lone straggler timidly trying to decide if she wanted to walk all the way back to the coop all by herself. Silly bird.

I can’t help thinking how sad it would have been for her to finally make it all the way, only to find the door sealed for the night, if I had dashed back to the house without looking inside to count them first.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

December 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

Feeling Wintery

with 4 comments

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).

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

Two Frights

leave a comment »

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2018 at 7:00 am

New Prowler

with 2 comments

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.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am