Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

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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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