Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

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

First Sign

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I know it’s only February, but spring can’t be far off now. Yesterday morning at work, I received this message from Cyndie:

Maybe that egg surprised the hen. Cyndie reported it was in the sand covering the floor of their coop, not one of the nest boxes.

If the first egg of the season doesn’t offer us hope for better days ahead, then we’ve been paying too much attention to news of the world. Well then, how about two eggs! By the time Cyndie went down to close the coop for the night, there was already a second egg, this time right where we want them, in a nest box.

There may be enough increase in hours of daylight to trigger egg-laying again, but this morning the hens got a brisk slap in the beak after a drop of 40°(F) temperature overnight. Ol’ Man Winter isn’t going to let us forget what month it is, regardless what fresh eggs make us think.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

Stealthy Visitors

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We had a light coating of snow overnight Sunday night and that made for great tracks viewing yesterday. Cyndie spotted footprints that didn’t come from our chickens.

Based on recent sightings, we both believe it was a pheasant that we’ve seen hanging around recently. These tracks were made between the time Cyndie and Delilah headed out on a walk and returned a short while later. They never saw the bird that walked by.

There were also paw prints from a critter large enough to take interest in chickens.

 

In fact, Cyndie followed the trail of these tracks right to the coop, where she found the chickens all perched up on the roost as if seeking refuge as far above the ground as possible.

No harm done. Not this time, anyway.

Just some footprints in the snow from stealthy visitors in the broad daylight.

Maybe the visitors didn’t have enough time to linger longer because Cyndie and Delilah were making rounds. In the case of our chickens, this is probably a very good thing.

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Written by johnwhays

January 14, 2020 at 7:00 am

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Playing Nurse

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I am not a nurse, but I am back in nurse-mode for a while because Cyndie had outpatient eyelid surgery yesterday. A procedure that only takes an hour required over four to drive to Stillwater and then wait an hour and twenty minutes for things to start because the patient ahead of her took longer than planned.

Now Cyndie’s convalescence requires extra rest, limited activity, no lifting or bending over, and not rubbing her eyes for at least a week.

She looks a little like she stepped on a rake. Twice.

The procedure sounds a little harrowing in that Cyndie was sedated but conscious and instructed not to move for the entire procedure. That included reaching up to scratch an itchy nose. She needed to ask for help with an itch. Imagine trying not to cough, sneeze, or flinch while someone is holding a knife near your eye.

The surgeon asked for a warning to stop if Cyndie felt a sneeze coming on. It makes me wonder if the urge to sneeze gets suppressed by the sedation or if it could sneak up on a person whose face has been numbed.

I’m glad she didn’t get the hiccups.

We are happy Cyndie’s procedure did commence without complications. Our return home was late enough that darkness had already arrived and Delilah’s dinner was over an hour later than usual. I took her for a walk and we closed up the chicken coop where all the hens were unharmed and safely perched on the roost.

I had clipped Delilah’s leash to a nearby tree while securing the coop and, out of my light beam, she suddenly started barking about something. When I returned to her it was obvious she was fixated on something nearby. When I released the clip she almost dragged me away, except the point she wanted to reach was just a few more steps over.

It was the trunk of a large old maple tree and I’m guessing she spotted a critter –likely a rabbit– disappear into an opening at the base of the tree. Delilah reacted with a frenzied, but futile attempt to attack the fortress. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a carnivorous fervor from her, except maybe the one time last summer when she had the lake-neighbor’s dog firmly clamped in her jaws.

Maybe I shouldn’t have let her keep the headless squirrel body she claimed from under a decorative pine tree near the back of our house on a walk earlier in the day yesterday. She was pre-primed to be in full-on predator mode after that.

I’m just distracted by a responsibility to focus on what Cyndie’s needs are during the recovery period. We are both going to work intensely on preventing any involuntary unconscious eye-rubbing when the healing causes itchiness. Doing so could completely defeat the surgical procedure results and the surgeon said that it happens to 1 out of 5 patients!

We don’t want her to be one of the ‘special’ ones.

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Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Happy Hens

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We are thrilled to report that our hens are acting very happy with the last few days of above-average warmth (above freezing!) around this winter solstice. Tomorrow is Christmas and the hours of daylight started increasing again so the mood is pretty festive around here. A return to home-laid eggs can’t be far off. The day they kick back into that cycle again will bring on its own celebratory moods in our house. We’ve become spoiled with a quality of eggs that the grocery store offerings don’t come close to matching.

During the previous sub-zero cold snaps and bouts of snow, the chickens showed zero interest in venturing outside the coop when we opened the chicken door. Yesterday and Sunday they gladly made the trek back to the barn overhang where there is prime sand-bathing to be had in the sun.

For some reason defying logic, the hens have sequentially been molting for several months now. The two latest raggy looking things are getting their comeuppance for the period they were strutting around looking like award-winning specimens when others were a sorry sight.

Everybody has their day.

We are going to leave the coop buttoned up for a couple of days while we take Delilah with us for an overnight to Cyndie’s parent’s house in Edina. The Christmas tradition for Cyndie’s family involves a big dinner with cousin families on the eve, then breakfast and a gift exchange extravaganza extraordinaire on Christmas morning followed with a big dinner in the evening.

In years past, when we had the horses, I ended up driving back and forth three times in two days in an attempt to be involved in all things at once. This year, we are modifying the plan a little to eliminate a couple of trips.

A nod to taking another tiny step toward reducing our use of fossil fuels for the sake of our warming planet.

I’m not sure the chickens will be so happy about our plan, though, now that they are showing renewed interest in coming out of the coop again when it’s nice.

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Written by johnwhays

December 24, 2019 at 7:00 am

Cold Now

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If we thought winter was coming on a little quick and fierce last week, today it has moved to another level of harsh. Single-digit cold temperatures are not a very friendly way for winter to show up and say hello.

So much for getting to know her first.

We have entered the period when any mechanical device that may have functioned normally in moderate temperatures is now being taxed to the brink of failing to function at all. When I attempted to back out of my parking space like usual after work yesterday, my car protested with unexpected sluggishness.

Oh, yeah. It had been sitting out all day in the Arctic chill. I forgot it’s no longer business as usual outside.

The flurries of snow that fell over the weekend hardly stayed on the ground. There was a small corner patch of the driveway that was the first to freeze and collect snow. The rest of the pavement still held enough residual ground warmth to melt the flakes that landed there.

That won’t be a problem any longer. At these temperatures, the asphalt is plenty cold now.

Our landscape pond is solid ice. If it wasn’t so small, we could use it as a skating rink.

The leaves might make the surface a little rough, though.

The cold air makes for a beautiful evening sky. Cyndie took this picture when making a trip to the chicken coop to close the door for the night. We have the water tanks plugged in to keep them from freezing, but the hens have to fend for themselves to keep warm. They are all winter-hardy breeds and fluff their feathers up in comical poofs of a genuine down coat to stave off the cold.

The coop provides shelter from the wind where they can smoosh together on the roost overnight to share their body warmth. I never watched to notice if the ones on the end are given a turn in the middle at some point. Seems only fair.

The harsh cold we are getting blasted with today is a fine ‘how-do-you-do?’ from winter, but maybe we can look at it as a bit of tough love that will serve us well as the season progresses.

After this start, returning to normal temperatures for November will feel absolutely tolerable!

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Written by johnwhays

November 12, 2019 at 7:00 am