Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

Newest Ramp

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Chicken ramp is now up to version three. I’ve given up on the cutesy woven willow branch ramps because they don’t hold up to the abuse of the elements and the apparent urges of critters and/or chickens to pull them apart.

It feels a little sad to be getting around to fixing this just days after the loss of five hens, but there are still three birds who are going in and out of the coop and I have decided to remedy the design flaw of passing through the drop zone for snow sliding off the slanted roof.

The new design approaches the chicken access door from the side, keeping it just inside the drip line off the roof.

Cyndie said the first chicken to exit the coop this morning after the door was opened had to stop abruptly to figure out the turn, but then walked right down.

I watched the Wyandotte who is becoming broody approach the new ramp from the ground yesterday, driven by her strong urge to get back inside and park in an empty nest box. She stopped where the bottom of the old ramp would have been and stretched her neck up as tall as she could with a look of incredulity as she inspected the strange alteration.

Then she flapped her wings and hopped halfway up from the side and scrambled up through the opening.

I’m anxious to see if the snow will drop just beyond this new ramp since that is the primary reason I changed to the side entry, but hopefully, that test won’t happen for many months.

Seven years ago today, the first spring after we had moved here, we received 18-inches of wet snow that wreaked havoc on trees and branches. I will always remember the sound of snapping limbs that resembled rifle reports cracking all around me within the otherwise sound-deadened thick blanket of white.

It was very distressing.

I will happily wait until next winter to see how the newest version of the chicken ramp works when melting snow drops off the roof overhang. By then, we should have round three of purchased chickens established, as Cyndie has already placed an order for all new breeds. Delivery is much delayed and breed selection was rather limited due to very high demand.

I guess a lot of people are in the market for the comfort of having their own source of eggs at a time when going out in public is being discouraged.

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Written by johnwhays

May 2, 2020 at 8:35 am

Clean Driveway

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One of the really great features of a spring snowstorm is when the snow melts on the driveway as fast as it falls. When Delilah and I set out on our first walk after I got home from work yesterday, there was no snow falling. After circling the majority of our acres, I parked her in the barn while I tended to chores at the chicken coop.

While I was down with a couple of egg-laying hens, the sky opened up and poured out a downburst of snow. It quickly became a mini-blizzard with little spinning snow-tornadoes that made my trek back to the barn into a heroic expedition. From the barn, Delilah and I hustled our way up to the protection of the house and turned our focus toward each of our respective dinners.

The next time I looked out the window, the cloudburst had ended. It went from everything to nothing in about ten minutes time.

But it wasn’t done yet.

Before dinner was over, flakes started flying again. This time, it lasted much longer. So long, in fact, I started to wonder if I was going to need to shovel. Delilah started getting antsy to make her obligatory after-dinner outing, but I kept delaying her in hope of waiting long enough for the snow to stop falling.

Not only did my plan succeed, but we were subsequently gifted with an outbreak of sunshine! The icing on the cake of this whole mini-drama was stepping out to the sight of a clean driveway. It was downright photogenic.

Take that, winter snowstorms…

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Written by johnwhays

April 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Gettin’ Out

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It is very easy to be out and about on 20 acres while maintaining appropriate social distance from other people, especially when our property is surrounded by fields and forest. Yesterday afternoon when the sun warmed things up a bit, I took a crack at a few chores in the great outdoors.

My first order of business was to do something about the increasingly dilapidated ramp to the chicken door. I don’t know whether the main culprit is the hens or some other critter, but somebody doesn’t like my weaving of willow branches.

I tried monitoring the ramp with the trail cam, but there is so much chicken activity that I get a couple of hundred photos during the day while capturing nothing after dark. I haven’t had the patience to keep trying long enough to see what animals are nosing around during the nighttime.

I think part of me doesn’t want to know and part of me doesn’t really care. My fix will be the same, regardless of whoever is messing with it.

I had collected a bag full of downed branches beneath the willow tree with a plan to redo the bad parts of the ramp but ended up having a change of heart. I decided to try cutting some finger-sized trees from our forest to weave bigger green wood through the existing frame.

A lot of the willow branches I originally used were dead, so they just dried out more and got brittle, making them easy to break. I think the thicker and greener sticks will stand up much better to abuse.

Around the shop garage, I chopped down the dried shoots of tall ornamental grass, pulled out the failed sheet of plastic water barrier that was supposed to redirect drainage, and then detangled the broken cedar post and bird feeder from the cage of vines that covered it.

It felt a lot like warm weather yard work, which was strange just a day and a half after the blast of snow we had received. At the same time, it was a glorious distraction from the mindset of sheltering in place and the unending gloom and doom news that is the other hard to avoid attention-getter of the moment.

My health is still good, my hands are washed, and I’m physically isolated all weekend at home. Today, I return to the day-job and will strive to avoid infectious invisible droplets.

I hope you all find an opportunity to get out wherever you are to spend some time beneath the open sky. It’s good medicine for long-term in-place sheltering.

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Written by johnwhays

April 6, 2020 at 6:00 am

Not Level

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This isn’t the first year I’ve had the impression that the chicken coop is leaning away from level, but it’s now become more obvious than I am able to ignore. Every time I walk past it, I fight an urge to walk over and push it back to level, but I’m the one who buried those six posts 3-feet deep each. A little push on the side of the structure won’t do anything to press the far posts back down to where they started.

Part of me wants to think it’s just an optical illusion given the relative reference of the surrounding ground. The view from the other side doesn’t look all that bad.

If I’d bother to walk up to the shop to get the level there would be no questioning it, but the issue is an “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” level concern and has yet to warrant the intentional hike in order to verify my instinct. Wouldn’t really make any difference, anyway. There is nothing I would do about it either way.

Actually, I don’t need the level. If you didn’t already spot it, go back and look at that first image. There is an easy reference line –two actually– revealing a straight verticle in the items hanging on the outside wall. Based on those lines being straight up and down, the horizontal boards are definitely not square to that.

The frost heave that occurs in the ground is in charge of the angle of this structure. The legs of the coop were not installed like footings for structures that must meet building codes.

Luckily, our hens don’t seem to give a cluck about it.

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Written by johnwhays

March 5, 2020 at 7:00 am

Mystery Culprit

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Someone’s been messin’ with the coop. At first, I suspected it was possible that wind-plus-time had conspired to undo some of my handiwork, but after fixing it on Tuesday afternoon and finding it undone again yesterday when I got home from work, I now think something else is responsible.

There is open space between the walls and the roof of the chicken coop which allows for maximum ventilation. The “ceiling” of the coop is nothing but an open mesh of quarter-inch hardware cloth that allows moisture to vent out, but during windy winter storms, can also let snowflakes in.

I learned of that problem when little drifts formed inside the coop after a big snowfall. My crude fix was to stuff plastic and mesh fence material into the gap between the walls and roof. It worked perfectly well to keep snow out without completely destroying the ventilation.

After tucking the material back into place on Tuesday, it looked as good as the first time I installed it.

Less than 24-hours later, this is what Cyndie found:

Some mischief-maker, most likely a pesky bird, had already pulled some of the mesh back out again.

If I didn’t think we would get more snow this season, the material could all come out, but experience leads me to believe there will still be multiple occasions when the barrier will serve its purpose before spring arrives in full.

It is simple enough to tuck it back in place, so I will carry on this little game with the mystery culprit for now.

I won’t be surprised if the next phase of our game includes the eventual appearance of the makings for a nest. At that point, I suspect the interloper will be considering me the culprit causing mischief as I work to dismantle its construction project.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2020 at 7:00 am

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Playing Nurse

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I am not a nurse, but I am back in nurse-mode for a while because Cyndie had outpatient eyelid surgery yesterday. A procedure that only takes an hour required over four to drive to Stillwater and then wait an hour and twenty minutes for things to start because the patient ahead of her took longer than planned.

Now Cyndie’s convalescence requires extra rest, limited activity, no lifting or bending over, and not rubbing her eyes for at least a week.

She looks a little like she stepped on a rake. Twice.

The procedure sounds a little harrowing in that Cyndie was sedated but conscious and instructed not to move for the entire procedure. That included reaching up to scratch an itchy nose. She needed to ask for help with an itch. Imagine trying not to cough, sneeze, or flinch while someone is holding a knife near your eye.

The surgeon asked for a warning to stop if Cyndie felt a sneeze coming on. It makes me wonder if the urge to sneeze gets suppressed by the sedation or if it could sneak up on a person whose face has been numbed.

I’m glad she didn’t get the hiccups.

We are happy Cyndie’s procedure did commence without complications. Our return home was late enough that darkness had already arrived and Delilah’s dinner was over an hour later than usual. I took her for a walk and we closed up the chicken coop where all the hens were unharmed and safely perched on the roost.

I had clipped Delilah’s leash to a nearby tree while securing the coop and, out of my light beam, she suddenly started barking about something. When I returned to her it was obvious she was fixated on something nearby. When I released the clip she almost dragged me away, except the point she wanted to reach was just a few more steps over.

It was the trunk of a large old maple tree and I’m guessing she spotted a critter –likely a rabbit– disappear into an opening at the base of the tree. Delilah reacted with a frenzied, but futile attempt to attack the fortress. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a carnivorous fervor from her, except maybe the one time last summer when she had the lake-neighbor’s dog firmly clamped in her jaws.

Maybe I shouldn’t have let her keep the headless squirrel body she claimed from under a decorative pine tree near the back of our house on a walk earlier in the day yesterday. She was pre-primed to be in full-on predator mode after that.

I’m just distracted by a responsibility to focus on what Cyndie’s needs are during the recovery period. We are both going to work intensely on preventing any involuntary unconscious eye-rubbing when the healing causes itchiness. Doing so could completely defeat the surgical procedure results and the surgeon said that it happens to 1 out of 5 patients!

We don’t want her to be one of the ‘special’ ones.

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Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Happy Hens

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We are thrilled to report that our hens are acting very happy with the last few days of above-average warmth (above freezing!) around this winter solstice. Tomorrow is Christmas and the hours of daylight started increasing again so the mood is pretty festive around here. A return to home-laid eggs can’t be far off. The day they kick back into that cycle again will bring on its own celebratory moods in our house. We’ve become spoiled with a quality of eggs that the grocery store offerings don’t come close to matching.

During the previous sub-zero cold snaps and bouts of snow, the chickens showed zero interest in venturing outside the coop when we opened the chicken door. Yesterday and Sunday they gladly made the trek back to the barn overhang where there is prime sand-bathing to be had in the sun.

For some reason defying logic, the hens have sequentially been molting for several months now. The two latest raggy looking things are getting their comeuppance for the period they were strutting around looking like award-winning specimens when others were a sorry sight.

Everybody has their day.

We are going to leave the coop buttoned up for a couple of days while we take Delilah with us for an overnight to Cyndie’s parent’s house in Edina. The Christmas tradition for Cyndie’s family involves a big dinner with cousin families on the eve, then breakfast and a gift exchange extravaganza extraordinaire on Christmas morning followed with a big dinner in the evening.

In years past, when we had the horses, I ended up driving back and forth three times in two days in an attempt to be involved in all things at once. This year, we are modifying the plan a little to eliminate a couple of trips.

A nod to taking another tiny step toward reducing our use of fossil fuels for the sake of our warming planet.

I’m not sure the chickens will be so happy about our plan, though, now that they are showing renewed interest in coming out of the coop again when it’s nice.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2019 at 7:00 am