Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Dramatic Downpour

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Holy cow, did we ever get a dose of dramatic weather last night. The rain came down so fast and hard we had over 3-inches within about 45-minutes, much of it during the time when the weather service had declared a Tornado Warning for our county.

Cyndie’s garden went from being a little too dry to a lot too wet.

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We ate home-grown peas from the garden for lunch yesterday! No pesticides, no chemicals, no shipping required. Just pick, wash, and eat.

Everything in the garden got washed last night. The path from the house down to the chicken coop became a river.

Cyndie went out to close the chicken door when it seemed like there might be a break in the downpour intensity, but the hens weren’t in yet. They were huddled underneath the coop and didn’t want to move. The pause in the rainfall rate was short-lived. By the time she got geared up to make her dash, it was already picking up speed again.

When she eventually returned to the house, there was standing water in her boots and she was soaked through all the way to her underwear.

That was definitely one heck of a downpour.

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2020 at 6:00 am

Officially Summer

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We have reached the longest day of 2020. It’s the latest hour when we tuck the chickens to bed in the coop for the night. Our fraction of a flock who have survived free-ranging among the wildlife that roams our countryside look a little lonesome snuggled up on one end of the roost.

Nonetheless, they seem happy as ever with their lot in life and explore a broad swath around the barn and their coop, heroically controlling the fly and tick population. Their egg production is enough to keep Cyndie’s and my demand covered. We just have less home-laid eggs to share with others.

Cyndie’s garden(s) are growing by leaps and bounds. With her away for the weekend, I fear the leafy things may be a chaos of excess by the time she returns tonight.

Summer would normally mean I am on a bike trip or we were going up to the lake a lot, but this year is anything but normal. At the same time, life at home is about as normal as can be. The weather has been on an amazingly even keel, perfectly balanced between hot and cool days with a mix of sunny, breezy, reasonable thunderstorms, gentle soaking rain, and calm dry days.

At the solstice, we are in the middle of this summer-ness. We can enjoy more of this for a few weeks and then begin the slow slide to earlier minutes when the hens return to the coop.

I’m willing myself to soak this time up in the fullest sense possible, in hopes of storing the memories as complete as possible for reference during the opposite time period six months from now. For those days when we go close the chicken door to the coop around 4:00 p.m.

Those days when they don’t bother laying any eggs.

Here’s to all these hours of summer sunlight!

Happy Father’s Day all you dads and children of dads! And moms who put up with the dads.

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Written by johnwhays

June 21, 2020 at 9:35 am

Breakfast Buddy

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It was only a short time ago that Cyndie was visited for a day by a wild roughed grouse while gardening. A couple of days ago, we had a wonderful sighting of a brightly colored oriole in a pine tree outside our window, which is a rare event in the more than seven years we have been here.

Now, we have an iridescent blue-black starling with a very yellow beak who, for the past two days, is showing up to have breakfast with our chickens.

Arriving this morning in a branch overhead, and then making its way down to partake of the grain in the pan on the ground, the chickens only mildly appeared to question the return of this unlikely visitor.

Maybe birds are picking up on these unprecedented extraordinary times of the pandemic and seeking to make an extra connection with others around them.

Wouldn’t surprise me a bit, except for the fact the birds probably aren’t aware the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is infecting humans around the world.

Maybe it has more to do with people slowing down enough to take notice. Who knows? It could be a little bit of both.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2020 at 9:34 am

Two Tidbits

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Two morsels from yesterday evening make today’s report, both thanks to Cyndie who contributed the images.

The person renting our fields for cutting and baling hay showed up to fertilize the acres. I sure hope the weather gives him a fighting chance this summer to get some decent bales out of his efforts.

Last year, despite his humble attempts, there were never enough consecutive dry days to achieve much success. He ended up rolling wet hay after the first cut, and only baled a fraction of his second cut after the first frost.

When Cyndie made her way down to the coop at dusk, she found evidence of an intruding prowler.

That plastic container was inside the coop earlier in the afternoon. Cyndie discovered it chewed through and outside on the ground. There were no eggs in the nest box, either, but it wasn’t clear if this just happened to be a day when the two active layers both took a break, or not.

Right now, the australorp is broody and not laying. She spent the day yesterday in the broody-breaker cage.

I’m guessing one of the local raccoons is doing some daytime foraging.

So, there you have two glimpses of our life on the edge of real farming. If I wasn’t so distracted by the day-job lately, maybe I’d devise some plot to persuade the masked bandits to leave us alone. Permanently.

Not that we don’t love wildlife and all. It’s just that we like our chickens and home-laid eggs more.

 

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Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2020 at 6:00 am

Wild Visitor

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The first message I received from Cyndie yesterday was a celebration of the recently broody Wyandotte choosing to exit the coop of her own volition.

Cyndie had first attempted the cold bath method, which simply rendered the hen incapable of standing but didn’t break that drive to brood. Then she resorted to the broody cage for a required two different sets of multiple days.

The second message I received announced a different bird had showed up to chill near Cyndie while she was working on her new garden plots.

This beautiful little grouse let Cyndie get very close without showing any nervousness, but didn’t react with any interest to offered seeds or water.

I figure the bird sensed Cyndie’s chicken-momma skills and was naturally drawn to her nurturing spirit. Or, it was seeking protection from marauding turkey flocks that roam our area.

We frequently hear pheasant calls and occasionally see them, but this is the first time I have seen a grouse. Funny that it gave such an appearance of being domesticated. Maybe it wants to get in with the cool kids and join up with our chickens. With the flock of hens drastically reduced in number, now might be a good time to try.

The three chickens seem a little lonesome for their absent sisters.

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Written by johnwhays

May 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Slow Progress

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Yesterday, despite mighty intentions to tackle many tasks, I lowered my expectations to match my level of energy. To start, I decided to complete the prior day’s effort to shape up the old manure compost area. The chickens were thrilled to see me.

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It was low-hanging fruit, so to speak.

I had intended to do some chainsaw tasks that I’ve been saving for when I wasn’t home alone, but a power tool with a sharp blade was more than I wanted to be managing this day. In fact, the leaning pine tree stump I was going to trim back suddenly offered an alternative solution of being pushed back upright with a hydraulic jack.

Some spur-of-the-moment ideas don’t always pan out. The extra effort toward that side-project was only successful in avoiding doing something else. I think it is going to take the come-along winch to ultimately accomplish that task, but we decided to save it for another time.

From there, we headed across the field to try digging in the footbridge. That was another project which morphed into an adaptation somewhere between the ideal I had in my mind and the reality of what could be easily accomplished in a short amount of time with tools we could carry.

It ended up a perfect example of “good enough.”

That is a pretty good description of my whole day yesterday. It is something for which I have no complaints.

Slow progress is better than no progress at all.

Still healthy, 97.2°, and happily sheltering at home for the weekend with an amazing chef and companion. No complaints whatsoever, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2020 at 9:34 am

Digging Projects

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Since much of my yesterday was spent tethered to the day-job email account I didn’t dig into any large outdoor projects, but I did get a chance to do a little digging. There are remains of two old manure piles that have essentially been flattened by chicken activity that I have wanted to toss together into one big pile. When I start turning dirt, chickens come running to take advantage of the opportunity for their worming purposes, so it needed to be a project that didn’t involve the presence of a certain canine.

Now that Cyndie is home to entertain Delilah, I nabbed my chance to revisit my old days of turning composting manure piles, much to the chicken’s delight.

The three breeds have distinctly noticeable differences in behaviors. The two Australorps are impressively bold about getting as close as possible to my every pitchfork turn, eager to get first-dibs, accepting my tapping them out of the way so I have room to take the next scoop. The yellow Buff Orpingtons recognize the advantage the black Australorps have and try to emulate them, but they aren’t as confident about getting so close to the business end of my pitchfork and spend most of their time in retreat.

The Wyandottes have always been the more timid of the three, and have figured out there are plenty of worms to be found in the scoopfuls getting tossed onto the new pile, so they spend their energy on the back end of the process.

The constant presence of the hens is both entertaining and annoying. I could do the job twice as fast if they weren’t so in the way, but it wouldn’t be near as much fun.

After I had tired of the exertion, I stepped back to just stand and watch them. In no time, I found myself surrounded by the flock as if they wanted to come thank me for the treats I had unearthed for them.

Today, there is more digging in store. I want to dig in the new footbridge so the ends are at ground level to accommodate the primary purpose of being able to drive the lawn tractor across the ravine with ease.

After that, a much larger dig is awaiting up by the house. Cyndie wants to plant a produce garden on a slope that will require terracing. I thought I was just going to be putting in some short retaining walls but the project now threatens to involve critter proofing with buried hardware cloth and perimeter fencing.

I fear the possibility of more digging than I’m interested in, but I expect visions of a future with home-grown produce might help me to overcome that lack of interest. Plus, such a garden will provide a place to use all that composted soil I’ve been piling up.

Can you dig that?

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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

Increasing Production

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It’s March 18 and I’m still symptom-free. I’m measuring each day that I’m not sick as a victory over the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you to everyone who is heeding the call for social distancing. One graph I saw at worldometers.info last night indicated the daily number of cases identified in the US has been doubling every few days. Since that data only includes the number of people actually tested, I imagine the total number of cases increasing every day is probably much larger.

I have not quarantined myself yet, but I’m limiting my activity to commuting to work and then coming straight home. I will need to stop for gas twice a week, but I always pay at the pump so there is no need to go inside.

There are only ten people at work, so if we can all avoid exposure from others, the risks at the day-job should remain low.

It’s too bad the virus doesn’t provide obviously visible indications in a person when they get it. That would make it so much easier to avoid people who are spreading it.

While staff at the day-job are giving their all to keep up with the over-filled production schedule (there’s no indication our customers are slowing down at this point), the hens at home are just approaching their highest production rate.

Yesterday was the highest-grossing day of the new season. From our amazing eight hens, we got 7 eggs for the first time this year. I found the last egg out in the sand covering the floor of the coop, not in the nest boxes that all the others have been using.

It seems to me that the color of the eggs from the three different breeds is becoming more homogeneous. We used to get some that were very dark brown and some that were very light. Yesterday’s seven looked surprisingly similar.

The light ones are a little darker and the dark ones are lighter than usual.

Luckily, they are all filled with a brilliantly deep-colored yoke that makes for amazing breakfast dishes and wonderful baked goods.

With the head cook and principle baker living in Florida for a while, I will be stockpiling eggs for a later date.

If things get desperate during the pandemic quarantine, maybe I could trade some for toilet paper.

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Written by johnwhays

March 18, 2020 at 6:00 am

Morning Surprise

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When I pushed my nose up against the glass of the door to the deck in search of the critter that was setting off our motion light on Tuesday night, all I could report seeing was a few surprise snowflakes floating down. It was only a surprise in that I hadn’t noticed any other precipitation starting before that. My impression was that the predicted weather event would start with light rain that might eventually include a mix of snow.

Waking up yesterday morning with a two-and-a-half inch layer of sticky snowflakes coating everything was quite the surprise.

It made for some fabulous morning scenery.

I was darting off on my morning commute to the day-job in the Daylight Saving Time darkness of the early hour, so I didn’t get much chance to ogle the spectacle. By the time I reached the far side of the Twin Cities, there was no evidence anywhere that any new precipitation had even fallen there.

Knowing the snow at home wouldn’t last very long after the sun came up, I sent a message to Cyndie asking her to take pictures.

I’m really glad she did because, by the time I returned home in the afternoon, all the new-fallen snow had disappeared completely. It was if it had never happened.

My, how quickly things can change.

Early on, Cyndie reported the chickens appeared highly miffed over the sudden return of the cold blanket of white covering their stomping grounds. Happily for them, the annoyance was short-lived and they were out on patrol scouring their surroundings in execution of their primary responsibility as insect pest controllers when I got home.

It’s very rewarding to have them get after that task at the very instant bare ground begins to reappear from beneath the winter snowpack. They are champions of natural fly and tick reduction.

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2020 at 6:00 am