Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Bigger Digs

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The chickens are out of the brooder and into the coop! They seemed pretty happy with all the new space, if a little bit confused over the unfamiliar surroundings.

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Our weather has turned the corner finally, and the warmth of April sunshine is making a big difference. Time for me to stop whining about the suffering we’ve endured in the face of the extended winter that has blanketed our region.

Look at that.

I don’t have anything to whine about, and I can’t think of anything else to write.

It’ll probably be too hot outside today.

 

Written by johnwhays

April 20, 2018 at 6:00 am

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Let’s Move

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When they started out in the brooder five weeks ago, our chicks had plenty of room. They are now getting a little testy with each other over their lack of space.

It’s time to move to the coop.

We probably would have already moved them, except it’s been so cold and snowy.

Now we are expecting a run of warmer weather and they are going to be movin’ on up.

You can see in the photo that they are sprouting enough feathers to reveal their eventual colors. The Golden Laced Wyandottes are showing that golden lacing nicely. They all have a long way to go before maturing into their wattles and combs.

By that time, we will need to have decided whether to let them roam free or keep them confined to protect them from predators. For a while there we felt okay with last year’s experiment, but with the rash of springtime attacks polishing off the last of that brood, it doesn’t feel quite right to not try something different.

We’ll move on that decision when they start to out-grow the coop in a month or two.

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Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

How About

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I’m taking a little evil pleasure in Cyndie’s report that she spotted a lot of fox tracks along the southern trail yesterday, because I know there are no longer any easy pickings to be had here.

Driving home past the neighbor’s farm, I took particular interest in how many of their chickens were wandering about in the thoroughly exposed wide open. I will be completely befuddled if the fox visiting us from the woods between our land and that neighbor’s has been ignoring their flock.

Hoping we get a chance to chat with them about it soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve been playing around with ideas on how we might proceed with our next twelve birds in light of the recent carnivorous outburst by the wild little member of the dog family. How about we domesticate the fox like we do dogs?

Allow me to stretch the boundaries of logic…

Here’s how it could go:

  • We trap the fox and attach a shock collar. We still don’t know if it’s a male or female. Since pups are born needing total care from the momma, it’s the father that hunts for the kits when they are young. Our visitor could be either.
  • We place customized high technology chips into each chicken, programmed to trigger the shock collar within 20 feet proximity.
  • Then we sit back and watch the perfect solution play out.

If foxes are so intelligent, it shouldn’t take long at all for this one to learn that our chickens are now off the menu.

It could even become a money-maker for us. We could offer to “chip” our neighbor’s chickens, too, for a small handling fee.

Maybe, as long as we’re stretching reality here, we could also have the collar release a scent of moles, voles, and rabbits after the fox leaves the chickens alone, to entice it toward a more preferred hunting focus.

In a world where we are moving toward driverless cars, smart speakers that control home life, and robots with unknowable artificial intelligence potential, my simple chicken protection/fox control idea seems downright quaint.

How about that?

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Written by johnwhays

April 10, 2018 at 6:00 am

Quick Fox

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That didn’t take long.

From the looks of the feathers that flew, the Buff put up a fight yesterday morning.

Cyndie found the lifeless body beyond the hay shed, not far from our property border to the north. That is a long way from where the trail camera captured the fox crossing our trail in the woods, but it is in the same general northerly direction. We think we have a pretty good idea about what direction from which the threat originates.

Meanwhile, my relocation of the trail cam did not produce the hoped for results. I’m guessing the motion of moving branches was triggering the captures. I scanned 722 images and found one with a nice face shot of a squirrel and one blur of a smaller squirrel leaping through the air. Nothing else, beyond wiggling branches.

Having read about the superb cunning of fox behavior, and their ability to learn patterns of our movement, I’m even more impressed over the great snapshot we have from the morning last week when the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens were dispatched.

It is not lost on us that the elusiveness of this predator has kept us entirely blind to its presence, beyond the one picture. Even though it has obviously been active during the day when we are out and about, neither of us has ever seen it with our own eyes.

Foxy, indeed.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2018 at 6:00 am

Being Stalked

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She’s all alone, but not alone. Our sole survivor from last year’s brood, this amazing Buff Orpington, has finally ended her non-stop calling for her two most recent missing companions.

She has avoided death on multiple occasions, once even getting bloodied from a too close encounter within Delilah’s jaws. Now, left to fend for herself alone on the roost in single-digit cold overnight temperatures, she seems to be doing her best to tough out her rather dire situation.

The hungry spring predators appear to be stalking with unprecedented boldness. Based on our experience the last five years, the number of roaming tracks in the snow during daylight hours has picked up significantly.

Yesterday, every time we turned around there were fresh tracks showing up in areas we had recently walked, and they weren’t all the same. I would guess a dog or coyote, probably a cat, and definitely that troublesome fox.

I pulled the memory card from the trail camera, only to find the sly critter had completely avoided detection. Based on her travel pattern, I have relocated the camera, pointing it off the trail into the woods where I hope to catch her looking more into the view, as opposed to walking across it. This will also reduce the repeating shots of Delilah and us walking the trail that tends to clutter the results.

If you look at the shot of the fox I posted the other day, she was leaving our property with nothing in her mouth. Following yesterday’s tracks led us to two different spots where a large number of feathers revealed locations where the future meals had been stashed.

Cyndie wondered about putting extra effort to protect the buff against the obvious stalkers, and as a result, we did end up coercing her back into the coop early in the afternoon. One way I look at the possible inevitability of her fate is that it would save us needing to convince the year-old chicken to accept the twelve new chicks (now looking a lot like “tweens”) that will soon be moving to the coop.

By the time the next brood makes it to the free-ranging stage of life, the phase of ravenous spring predation will have calmed to the occasional massacre by some roving set of fangs like we suffered last June. Then we’ll find out which of our new birds are as cunning and lucky as the Barred Plymouth Rocks and our lone Buff Orpington were.

It’s no wonder why free-range birds are so precious.

It’s a jungle out there. So to speak.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2018 at 10:04 am

Last One

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And then there was one. Cyndie came inside from feeding the horses yesterday around dinner time and reported that the Buff Orpington was the only chicken under the barn overhang.

The chickens are usually eager for her afternoon chores because they get a fresh serving of treats to eat. It was uncharacteristic for the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens to not show up. In addition, it was snowing like crazy, so it seemed odd that they would be off gallivanting around the property without the Buff.

That pointed to nothing good.

I put on my winter gear and joined Cyndie and Delilah in a scouting mission around the grounds. We circled past the trail cam, and I grabbed the memory card from it.

Cyndie had picked up three eggs from the coop in the afternoon, but our search didn’t come across any tracks revealing recent activity in the vicinity.

We headed inside with a sinking feeling of more loss.

For all the multitude of empty scenes that regularly show up on the trail cam, this time we landed one positive ID out of the nine images on the card.

That little fox walking toward the fence was ten minutes ahead of Cyndie and Delilah walking down that trail on their noon trek. They never saw it, but I bet Delilah smelled the scent.

We took a tiny bit of solace in the fact there was no chicken in the fox’s mouth in the image.

At dusk, with a looming trepidation, Cyndie went down to close the coop. The Buff was in there all by herself. With Delilah, Cyndie walked one more loop around the back pasture for any sign of what may have happened.

It was Delilah who took noticeable interest in a dark spot inside the fence. Cyndie tied Delilah outside and climbed through the wires and found the proof of our worst fear.

Now we are wondering if we will be able to accelerate the introduction of our new chicks to the lone surviving chicken from last year’s flock. The poor girl must have been cold and lonely all alone last night in the coop.

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Written by johnwhays

April 3, 2018 at 6:00 am

Feathered Friends

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The new chicks are growing into chickens already! They are sprouting feathers and flapping around in the brooder like the little adolescents they are. The downy, peeping hatchlings that arrived in the mail are gone but for the memories.

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If they keep up at this pace, and the weather continues to pretend it’s still winter, these guys are going to have a shocking move to the coop and the great outdoors. The landscape is under a two-and-a-half inch blanket of white stuff this morning. Based on the forecast I read for the coming week, with more snow and cold temperatures due, it’s as if spring has forgotten to sprung!

Yesterday, the three adult hens were busy aerating the forest floor.

Looks like they are going to have to put that project on hold for a while now.

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Written by johnwhays

March 31, 2018 at 8:59 am