Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Backup Plan

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What have we done? Cyndie says she called me to ask if she should. I interpreted her call as informing me that she would. While in the vicinity of a known supply of new chicks, Cyndie stopped in to look and came away with twelve. Three each of four breeds, two we have experience with and two that are new to us.

Rhode Island Red, Barred Rock, Americana, & Black Brahma.

I was given about an hour to get the brooder set up and ready. No waiting for the Post Office to deliver, we were going to have twelve new chicks within a day!

The thing is, we still have twenty-two incubating eggs in our basement bathroom at the same time.

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A few days ago, we candled those eggs and saw little to inspire hope of success for our first ever attempt to hatch our own chicks. We heard about a new batch of chicks arriving at the Buffalo Country Store and began to think about the advantage of such simple access to already sexed pullets.

We figured it was just a passing thought though because Buffalo is such a long way away from where we live. Then, one of those messages from the universe popped up that seem hard to ignore. Cyndie discovered the location of a training session she would be co-leading placed her mere minutes away from Buffalo.

I didn’t immediately say she shouldn’t go through with the purchase, but it did feel like we were making a hasty decision. To allay my concerns, we agreed to move up our next check of the incubating eggs to update that situation. If there were few signs of progress, our backup plan of buying the chicks would seem less impetuous.

My concerns were not allayed. While the first two eggs we happened to check showed little visible difference from a few days earlier, about twenty others revealed successfully developing veins and other detectable features. Multiple times the dark spot of an eye could be seen. It appears we have a lot more viable eggs than we realized.

It’s quite possible we could end up needing a new backup plan to solve how we will house two different batches of chicks hatched several weeks apart.

I guess this is one way to deal with large losses to predator pressures. Increase supply until it outpaces demand?

If ever there was a time to heed the adage of not counting chickens before they hatch, we’ll deal with the next reality when it arrives. But the possibilities have us marveling over how much things can change in surprisingly short spans of time.

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Written by johnwhays

May 9, 2021 at 9:34 am

Another First

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It’s been a while since we tried something for the first time at Wintervale, so I guess we were due. Last night we started the 21-day incubation period toward hatching our own chicks. I never had this one on my list of things I wanted to try.

We have set our expectations low, but are striving to meet the specific parameters laid out [hee… laid] in the instructions as closely as possible to improve our odds. Since we weren’t planning ahead for this, some of the eggs spent time in refrigeration, which isn’t recommended.

If any of them hatch, we’ll have even more appreciation for what Rock contributed in his short time with us.

Candling to see if they are viable is scheduled to occur in seven days.

Yesterday, Cyndie gave the horses a new first by opening the gate to the front hayfield for them to explore. The four of them have already chomped the back pasture grass down so much we need to give it a rest.

Looking at how crazy-fast the lawn grass is growing around here during the latest series of rainy days, I expect regrowth in the back pasture shouldn’t take long. The first lawn mowing of the season is definitely imminent, pending the next dry, sunny day.

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Written by johnwhays

April 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

Thinking Positively

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It makes simple sense to me. Repetitive thought develops paths and synapses in our brains. What we are thinking grows pathways and releases chemical reactions in our bodies. When something difficult comes to us, we can simply be with the experience, but we don’t need to hold on to it. We can let it go and replace it with something positive.

We had a wonderful time with our chickens. Rocky was a great addition to our experience. Cyndie and I are working on filling our minds with the best memories of our hens and the challenge of finding their hidden eggs. We hear their calm chicken conversations and Rocky’s blustery crowing still in our ears.

We have eggs and plans to incubate some of them.

The sooner we release the tragedy of the dramatic losses that happened in such a short span of time, the better. We are noticing the flowers blooming across our forest floor. We are growing pathways in our brains with visions of a world we want to bring into being.

We are thinking positively.

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Written by johnwhays

April 26, 2021 at 6:00 am

Sickle Feathers

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Well, it happened again already. Predators paid another visit in broad daylight, still ghosts to us, but deathly real to the chickens. This time we know that Rocky was right in the middle of it. Once again, chicken feathers were spread far and wide around our property. Rocky’s were close to the coop.

Tail feathers on Wednesday.

Minus tail feathers on Thursday.

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Cyndie found the intact bodies of two Light Brahmas. We lost the last Domestique, the two-year-old Golden Laced Wyandotte, and one of the Barnevelders. Another five down, leaving Rocky and three hens as all that remain to keep flies at bay, just at the time we brought horses back onto the property.

We can only hope that Rocky dished out as much abuse as it looks like he endured.

Cyndie picked up Rocky’s sickle feathers. We can only imagine what the fracas must have been like. I was at work and Cyndie never heard a sound. Most likely the horses would have been unsettled by the energy of predators on a killing spree. When Cyndie came out, everything was calm and collected.

I guess we should find solace in the fact our animals don’t appear to fret over the past. Everyone seemed just fine when it was over, albeit short some feathers, in Rocky’s case. Wish I could say the same for us.

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Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2021 at 6:00 am

Fifth Nest

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Cyndie finally found it. The location where our hens have been laying eggs beyond our coop. Eighteen eggs, to be exact.

We’d had our suspicions about the general direction for some time, but were mistakenly searching between the trees around the area when all the while they have been sneaking behind some rolled up fencing stored right beside the outside of the shop.

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Based on the variety in colors of eggs, we suspect between three and four hens have been taking turns laying there. They aren’t all laying there every time, as we have usually found six eggs per day in the coop nest boxes from the eight hens.

Yesterday, Cyndie spotted the Domestique running from the shop area which clued her in about refining her search location.

The chickens have been taking advantage of the horses being out in the back pasture, returning to their old stomping grounds under the barn overhang to scrounge for goodies. Since the horses tend to make swift sprints back into the paddocks at random intervals, the chickens occasionally find themselves alarmed.

Cyndie captured this image of Rocky standing tall over them as they closed ranks during one such incident yesterday.

When the horses aren’t racing back into the paddocks, they were thoroughly enjoying the comfort and open space available in the back pasture.

It was another glorious day in paradise.

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Written by johnwhays

April 21, 2021 at 6:00 am

Unpleasant Reality

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Today’s post is one I don’t really want to be writing, but it’s the story to be told. The ever-present risk of free ranging our chickens played out yesterday afternoon between the hours of 2 and 4 o’clock. We had stepped back into the house to dry off from hours of being out in the rain or slogging away on tasks in the barn.

An unidentified foe or foes, invisible like the ghost of almost every previous such incident we have experienced, attacked our chickens and left us down four hens. A fifth, the old Buff Orpington, was injured and cowering in one of the corners under the barn overhang.

Two of the Light Brahmas stood around her, appearing to offer both comfort and protection. The wide spread of locations where bursts of feathers revealed shadows of the violence that occurred presented a complicated picture of how this incident must have played out.P4090007e

Near the coop, two or three eruptions of feathers. On the other side of the back pasture fence near the round pen, two more, all looking like feathers of a Domestique and the only New Hampshire hen. Near the barn, another Domestique. In the middle of the large paddock, it looked like Buff’s feathers.

Way over on the far side of the barn and around the hay shed, up onto the pavement of the driveway, one more Domestique.

Cyndie picked up the Buff and placed her in a safe space in the barn. There was some blood from her injury. The hen accepted some water with supplemental iron and enzymes. She survived the night, but when Cyndie checked on her this morning, it was obvious she was in distress. While grasping with the difficult decision to end the Buff’s suffering, Cyndie ended up witnessing the sight of the hen’s final spasm of death.

We are down five hens, leaving eight survivors and Rocky. There is no way of knowing what our new rooster may have achieved during the fracas, but one version is that he saved eight. In fact, it’s possible he kept the Buff from being killed and carried away, which is interesting to contemplate since he was usually busy trying to excommunicate her from the group whenever possible.

P4090001eHe shows no evidence of having any of his feathers ruffled. The attacker(s) left behind the fully intact body of the New Hampshire, which means the only missing bodies are the three Domestiques. It is hard to imagine it was a lone fox carrying these three off from such a wide span of distances. Much more understandable if we envision two or three coyotes.

We know coyotes exist in the area, but in all our years here, I have yet to see even one roaming on our land. Even when predators pay us a visit in broad daylight, they remain unseen ghosts for me.

We are granted the privilege of living with whichever chickens they allow us to keep. We still have one hen of the Domestique breed left. While the surviving chickens were wandering around later in the day, I noticed that Domestique trailing far behind the rest of the group.

Poor thing probably wonders where her mates had gone. I was thinking she probably shouldn’t stray far from Rocky’s side. Her breed appears to be a favored one for the local marauders.

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Sky Colors

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We enter our third day of the current weather trend where rain is expected all day but comes in bands that are separated by reasonably agreeable conditions that don’t last long and end without warning. One minute it is actually a rather nice day and then, nope, it’s raining like crazy for a second but now it’s just a spattering drizzle.

During the week when I am occupied with the day-job, I rely heavily on the always interesting images that Cyndie captures while she is out walking Delilah or tending to the chickens. News is that our Rocky the Roo has become pretty frequent with his challenges to see if Momma is still at the top of the pecking order.

Cyndie has needed to conjure up her “bigger-rooster-than-you” posture and gestures to convince Rocky that he doesn’t want to mess with the humans in charge. I sure hope our lessons will translate to include all other humans who come to visit, as well.

I wonder if Rocky let out a hearty morning crow for this sunrise Cyndie captured.

The rain has quickly transformed the color palette of our landscape toward a much greener hue. In addition to the burgeoning buds on branches, the areas of mowed grass are looking almost summer-like.

The real feature of this last shot, though, isn’t the green grass. It’s the fabulous light from above Cyndie captured highlighting that billowing cloud.

I really, really hope we get a few breaks in the rain this morning like the ones in these pictures because my Ritchie® automatic waterer installer told me last night that he would stop by in the morning and that’s the closest I’ve come yet to getting him to commit to an actual day and approximate block of time since I first requested his assistance two or three weeks ago.

When the source of skills and knowledge desired is also a really like-able guy, it is easier to endure the anguish of waiting for him to eventually get around to it, but it sure tests a patient man’s patience. I will be exceedingly happy when (and admittedly, if) he shows up.

Maybe I’ll have time to take pictures of an interesting sky while I’m down there eagerly waiting in a couple of hours.

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Written by johnwhays

April 9, 2021 at 6:00 am

Popular Nest

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We have four nest boxes in the coop for the hens to lay their eggs. History has revealed the box closest to the chicken door is the most popular.

I suppose when ya gotta lay, the first box might be a welcome necessity.

Cyndie is suspecting we’ve got a rogue who has chosen a spot other than the coop, based on the daily total of eggs collected falling a little short of expectations. She reports a pattern of suspicious chicken “call-outs” that frequently occur post egg-laying now emanating from a location other than the coop.

A cursory survey yesterday afternoon didn’t provide any evidence supporting her theory, but the fact this situation has occurred twice before feed our belief it is not only possible, but likely.

I told her she should let Delilah search using her incredible scent-detecting nose, but then we both felt a hesitancy over offering any encouragement to our intrepid tracker for predatory behavior toward our chickens or the eggs.

If it turned out to be just one hen choosing a remote location, that wouldn’t be such a big deal. Since the egg counts have seemed to be down by more than one a day this week, we are a little concerned that allowing this behavior to go unchecked might inspire more hens to participate in laying eggs in a nest of their own making.

Maybe it is unlucky we’ve seen such little evidence of predator pressure on this latest brood of birds and it has nurtured a complacency about their level of risk. Sure, they are domestic chickens, but they need to realize they are living in the midst of actual roaming wildlife.

A lone hen sitting on a nest in the woods of the neighbor’s property behind our shop garage (where Cyndie senses the familiar clucking outbursts have been coming from) will be no match for the fox that has been caught on the trail cam crossing onto our land from nearby.

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Written by johnwhays

April 7, 2021 at 6:00 am

Thirteen Eggs

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We now know that all thirteen of our hens are producing eggs. Friday we collected one egg for each hen in our brood. Our little chicks are all grown up.

 

They are thriving in their first exposure to spring and full access to free ranging our fields and forest. Crawling insects are under an all out assault.

When I was primping the paddock in preparation of our anticipated new equine tenants, the chickens showed up to join the fun; happy to help.

 

Now I’m going to go outside and clear out the last remnants of moldy hay from the hay shed and de-clutter the barn and I couldn’t be more excited about the reason so to do.

New horse companions are slated to arrive in less than a month.

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Written by johnwhays

March 28, 2021 at 9:39 am

Depth Perception

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Whether it’s a movie or a particular song, or sometimes a tragedy reported on the news, messages with impact can hit us in the gut. I watched a program last night that touched a personal nerve in its depiction of a powerful memory I have about my experience of depression. It involves the illogical behavior of pushing someone away when what you actually want is just the opposite.

I would shun connection when all I wanted was to be connected. It’s dysfunctional, to say the least.

The healthy alternative to that involves reaching an authenticity that brings behavior and desires into renewed alignment. Say what you mean, mean what you say, then act that way.

It is a function of becoming perceptive to the full depth of what we are truly feeling. Learning to be entirely honest with ourselves and observant enough to direct our thoughts toward a healthy interpretation of reality.

There is also a valuable component of becoming aware to avoid fabricating perceptions that lack any evidence of truth. Don’t make shit up.

I am happy to proclaim the incalculable reward of profound joy and blessed peace of mind available to a person who learns how to treat their depression and do away with dysfunctional thinking. I owe a debt of gratitude to the medical community that contributed to my recovery over two decades ago.

Yesterday, Cyndie discovered the depth of our chickens’ disdain for carrots after tossing them some mixed vegetable leftovers.

A little while later there wasn’t a single scrap of anything other than carrots remaining. I suppose the overnight scrounging critters will be happy to clean up after them.

We’ve noticed that the processed chicken feed we put out gets passed over by pretty much all the wild birds along with our chickens in favor of anything else we make available. The chickens LOVE the cracked corn and mealworm snacks, so there is never any of that left lying around, but leftover or spilled chicken feed even gets passed over by the overnight scavengers like raccoons, stray cats, possums, and a fox that have shown up on the trail cam.

I had no idea they would have such a discerning palate.

I should give them more credit for the depth of their perceptions.

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