Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Accidental Gamble

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Yesterday, Cyndie shared a story that required an admission she didn’t want to make. Before I expose the drastic oversight, let me just express how challenging it can be to take care of vulnerable chickens day in and day out. They are completely at our mercy to tend to their needs and watch over them.

Our methods are not foolproof, but as I drove past the barn yesterday when I got home from work, I saw our three hens calmly puttering about and looking healthy as ever. It was a reassuring postscript to the tale Cyndie had woven over the phone a little earlier during my commute.

As she described it, the first hint that something was amiss occurred as she approached the coop in the morning. There was no sound from the hens who would normally be making a ruckus to be let out by the time Cyndie normally arrives. Moving past the coop with Delilah, she headed to the barn to secure the dog and prepare servings of chicken food before coming back to open the doors.

That’s when she noticed some movement in the trees. She didn’t believe her eyes at first, and ran through several possibilities in her mind.

Those were some big birds.

Are they chickens? Could they be from a neighboring property?

No. Those were our three hens. How did they get out of the coop already!?

Cyndie worried that some critter might have compromised the door. She fretted for the health and safety of the pullets housed in the other half of the coop.

Upon arriving to find the locking bar was safely placed on the ledge above the hatch where she normally stores it during the day, she came to the ultimate conclusion that the chicken door on the back side of the coop had been left open all night long. When Cyndie had closed the front door to secure the pullets on Monday night, she had forgotten to close the little sliding door on the backside.

To our great relief, no marauding predators took advantage of her having forgotten one essential step in securing the coop for the night.

I’m pretty sure that’s a gamble she won’t accidentally take again for quite some time.

The process of closing the coop will involve some double-checks from now on, I suspect. Not unlike the step we long ago added, where we open the side hatch every night to confirm no uninvited critters are hiding inside when we close things up.

You might call that one the “possum rule.”

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Written by johnwhays

September 23, 2020 at 6:00 am

Autumn Arrives

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The autumnal equinox arrives locally at 8:30 a.m. CDT today. Despite enjoying fabulous summerlike temperatures this week, it is truly beginning to feel like fall. For one thing, the ground is dry. I think the ground has dried out only two times in the almost 8-years we have lived here. This has had a big impact on the way our woods look.

The green vegetation is much thinner than usual. The first colorful leaves are just starting to carpet the forest floor. Soon it will be impossible to see the ground and walking will become a crunching rustle of leaves with every step.

With that feature comes the unmistakable aroma of autumn.

Last night, Cyndie had a little scare when arriving at the coop around dusk to close things up after all the chickens were inside. The net fencing where she has the access point to climb inside showed signs of being monkeyed with by some unauthorized character.

Ol’ Rocky the Rooster might need to grow up real fast in order to protect his brood before they all reach adulthood.

Maybe he already did. Cyndie reported all chickens accounted for, safe on the roosts.

The amount of cover in the wooded acres surrounding the coop is quickly disappearing. That gives the free-ranging hens fewer places to hide, but it also gives any potential predators less cover for sneaking up on the girls.

I spotted a stray cat prowling in our small paddock on Sunday in broad daylight while I was walking Delilah. Our silly dog never saw the cat, but the cat saw us and made a hasty exit, stage left, where it ran up our North Loop trail out of sight.

I walked Delilah toward that direction and watched her pick up the scent and go nuts, wanting to follow the trail. I pulled rank and made her come my way, back to the house.

The Light Brahma pullet seems to be reflecting the seriousness of so much drama happening as the change of seasons launches a new batch of adventures. Their nights are getting longer and the air will soon be getting colder.

In the meantime, we are going to enjoy this agreeable autumn to the fullest.

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Written by johnwhays

September 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

Pullets Aplenty

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We were only away for two days, but upon our return, it was hard to find any signs remaining in our latest brood of chicks that identifies them as chicks anymore. They are reasonably qualified as pullets now, up until they become actual egg-laying hens. After checking on Pequenita and walking Delilah, and then saying hello to the three adult hens, we climbed into the netted front yard of the coop to commune with the young ones.

Last week, Cyndie constructed an added wing to the enclosure, cutting the old net to create an opening to the added space on fresh grass. That area encompassed an old wooden spool to which the girls all took a quick liking.

A cluster of them gathered up there to preen feathers together after the treats ran out that we had been offering up from the palms of our hands.

One of the friendly Dominiques hopped up to perch on my arm. I’m not sure if she was simply showing off about how comfortable she is with us or if she was specifically intending to lay claim on me and garner something of higher ranking over all the others as a result.

I was more than happy to oblige.

Alas, that only resulted in one of the New Hampshires one-upping the competition to show who’s boss by climbing on Cyndie’s back.

Those legs look like drumsticks. Next thing you know, that young one just might surprise us with practice crowing one of these days. None of the other two-month-olds are anywhere close to matching the pace of development of that one.

The other New Hampshire doesn’t have near the comb or wattle growth yet. However, she does have pretty good balance and wing action going for her.

The feather-footed Light Brahma appears to be doing a bit of a shuffle beneath her, doesn’t she? Look at those dance moves, cha-cha-cha.

There was plenty of action inside the fencing with our dozen pullets yesterday afternoon.

It was a pleasing “welcome home” to rural life once again.

Thankfully, no masks required.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Every Year

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It happens every year, but that never seems to alter the shock. August is gone and September is here. I pulled out a long-sleeved overshirt last night to ward off the chill of the cool evening air. Acorns are falling. Leaves, too.

Cyndie headed down to close the chicken coop after a phone call and found darkness almost got there first. All the birds were snugged in place, including two of the young ones who have taken to making the extra leap up to perch on a 2×4 cross-stud over the side window. Silly girls, but not unprecedented because one of the wyandottes from the last batch used to do the same thing. They’ll get over it after growing wide enough that the perch no longer seems wide enough for comfort.

While Cyndie was down at the coop, she sent me a text with a picture of the moonrise. It enticed me to want to try a similar shot with my Olympus pocket camera. I like them both.

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It didn’t necessarily feel like autumn out there last night, but it definitely felt like the end of summer.

It happens every year.

You’d think I’d get used to the transition by now, but it always seems so all of sudden.

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Written by johnwhays

September 1, 2020 at 6:00 am

Maturing Wonderfully

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The chicks have grown into pullets as they enter their seventh week and have completely mastered a routine of roosting in the coop overnight and romping in the fenced front yard all day long.

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Over the weekend, I found myself drawn to wander down to visit them on two separate occasions to just lay outside the fence and hang out. They have already devoured all the greenery that previously existed inside the fence so I’ve become a source of treats, dropping blades of fresh green grass inside for them.

When they pick up a blade, it often sets off a frenzy of thievery as nearby chicks move in with attempts to steal it away for their own.

By supplying these snacks I appear to be cementing my reputation as a friend-not-foe because they already come running excitedly when I announce my arrival with my best falsetto-voiced chicken greetings.

They are doing so well thus far we are wishing we could just skip ahead to merging with the adults and letting them free-range right now. Luckily, the adults made a few threatening gestures yesterday along the fence line to help me see the value of waiting until they are much closer in size.

It is good to see they are growing in familiarity with the antics of the twelve new chicks. That’s the whole point of the netting, giving them a chance to see, smell, and hear each other, but with a barrier for protection from aggression.

What’s not to love? I think they will get along famously when the time comes. The four new breeds are just so adorable!

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Written by johnwhays

August 31, 2020 at 6:00 am

Quick Learners

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Tuesday night, Cyndie was crawling in the dirt and chicken shit underneath the coop to wrangle chickens back into the coop after their second day romping in their fenced front yard.

Last evening, I couldn’t leave the bedtime chore exclusively to her for the third night in a row, so I volunteered my help. When we arrived, Cyndie assumed they were all cuddled in the darkness beneath the coop. I stooped for a closer look and couldn’t find a single bird.

After only their third day out of the coop, they let their instinct guide them to return to their house as darkness approached. All twelve had put themselves to bed.

I picked the right day to offer my help.

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Written by johnwhays

August 28, 2020 at 6:00 am

Timid Start

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Given how bold the chicks seemed to have become since gaining familiarity with their coop, we half expected them to leap at the chance to escape and explore once we opened the door for them.

They “chickened” out. Despite plenty of gentle coaxing from their chick-momma, it took manual transferring to finally get their feet on real ground.

Even with that, we only got 10-of-12 to come out and explore the fenced run we installed for them. That was good enough for us on their first day under the open sky.

More time was actually spent under the safe cover of the coop itself. The three adult hens wandered nearby, showing occasional mild interest in the new feathered chirpers. I got an impression from the Australorp that she was looking for an opportunity to give a few of them a piece of her mind, as she stalked in close a couple of times to see what the young ones were up to on the other side of the netting.

One of the Light Brahmas decided to sprint back up the ramp shortly after the excursion began, but other than that, just as I suspected, none of the others made it easy to get them to return indoors for the night.

We’ll increase the time they can be outside a little each day for a few days to a point where the door can stay open during daylight hours and they can come and go as they please. Based on how voraciously they chomped grass blades and green leaves in the short time they were out, I suspect they will eliminate anything growing green within the run in a matter of a few days.

I don’t expect they will be timid about coming out of the coop for more than another day or two.

I’m as eager as ever to get them melded as equals with the three adults so we can remove the barriers splitting the coop and give them the full space to share. It will make a lot of things easier about cleaning and feeding when we get back to our normal way of doing things. But with an interest in avoiding a failed attempt, we are going to be very patient about waiting for obvious signs the time has arrived.

It’s still our first time dealing will all the intricacies of introducing new chicks to existing adult hens and we want to give all parties involved the best chance of having the introductions proceed without any “unnecessary-roughness” penalties needing to be flagged.

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Written by johnwhays

August 26, 2020 at 6:00 am

Summer Growth

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We’ve got beans and peppers coming in from Cyndie’s first produce garden ever!

Last night for dinner we ate cauliflower from the garden, too. We’ve eaten some beets, potatoes, and carrots. Cyndie has used celery from her garden in a stir-fry and sandwich spreads.

We are enjoying bountiful summer growth.

Meanwhile, the fledgling chickens are growing into their half of the coop with ease. They wasted no time making their way to the two main roost branches where they happily perch on the same level with the three adult hens who come inside every night.

Last night we finished securing a fenced run that will allow the younger chickens to venture outside for the first time. This afternoon we will begin the exercise of establishing their pattern of being outside during the day and returning to the coop at dusk.

Based on previous experience, it involves a fair amount of chicken-wrangling the first few times that I’m not very excited about. Here’s hoping they figure out the drill as quickly and easily as they have mastered everything they’ve achieved thus far.

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Written by johnwhays

August 25, 2020 at 6:00 am

Always Hope

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It is a time of speeches for democracy in the US this week and hearing the intelligent oration of our previous (44th) President last night was incredibly refreshing. After enduring years of the undoing of countless protections to our environment, the destruction of our country’s reputation across the globe, disrespecting our allies and coddling our adversaries, and repeatedly trashing our precious freedom of the press, the campaign for an alternative is finally stirring hope for a better future.

I sure hope our youngest eligible voters will show up like never before to exercise their right to have a say in who our lawmakers and policymakers and leaders will be for the next term, all the way down the ballot.

If our chickens could vote, I think the twelve young ones would choose to have the net removed so they could take over the whole coop.

The three adult hens might not be ready to accept the kids yet, though. Tuesday night, I think they thought the kids had locked them out of the house. When I arrived to close the chicken door for the night, to my surprise, the hens came running to meet me.

“What are you guys doing up still?!” I asked in amazement. “You’re supposed to be in bed already!”

Then I noticed their access door was already closed. Poor things couldn’t get in.

It was as if they were running toward me to tell me all about their dilemma.

When Cyndie got home later in the evening, I asked if she knew any reason why the door might have been closed. The realization flashed and she moaned in woe. She had closed it earlier in the day, in case any of the young ones hopped over a barrier while she was pulling out the poop board to clean it, and forgot to slide the door back open.

The young chicks have quickly gained full confidence for climbing to the big roosts and will make big leaps and flap wings to reach places we’d rather they didn’t, like the slanted surface above the nest boxes.

But their confidence and aggressiveness give me hope they will be up to every challenge that lies ahead while maturing into adulthood.

It feels good to experience a little boost in hope. For our chicks, yes, but more importantly, for our country.

It’s been a really long stretch of little to none in the hope department.

This serves to remind me to always hope, regardless of how gloomy the prospects might ever appear.

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Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2020 at 6:00 am

Successful Relocation

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The chicks are in the coop!

Among the changes the chicks are dealing with, a bedding of sand instead of woodchips appeared to be the primary focus of their initial impressions.

It didn’t take them long to push the envelope of their abilities in exploring the new levels available. It was cute to watch them consider a leap multiple times before actually launching from one perch to another.

It got chilly last night and exposed the youngsters to cooler temperatures than they were used to in the brooder. Cyndie ended up lowering the heat lamp a little to ease their adjustment to this new world.

When we went down to close the chicken door, it was sweet to hear the three adult hens soothingly cooing while calmly perched on their side of the roost. They appeared unconcerned about the twelve new coop-mates that suddenly appeared during the day.

The chicks seemed just fine with the situation, as well.

The newbies will spend a week or so confined to quarters to establish the coop space as their current and future home before being granted brief, but expanding outings in the fenced front yard we will be installing today.

All these steps are designed to keep them safe while they are maturing toward a time when they will be merged with the adult hens and granted the full rights of free-ranging the property to the delight of us all.

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2020 at 9:42 am