Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

She Survives

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Much to our surprise, our Buff Orpington appears to be functioning normally after enduring a dangerous encounter which drew blood on Saturday in a fracas with our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, Delilah.

Yesterday afternoon, Cyndie witnessed the hen drinking water and eating food in the coop, and when I peeked in on the chickens, our hero was in one of the nesting boxes, cooing.

I don’t know how she does it.

Looking back over the whole experience of deciding to make the blind leap into having chickens, despite knowing we had a dog who would do everything in her power to foil our plan, I am in awe of these three survivors who have endured every calamity of our inaugural year.

We thought it would be good to have chickens to help control flies, but we didn’t have a coop. So, I built a chicken coop. Then we just needed to get chickens. Cyndie ordered three each of three breeds from an online site.

Therein started our crash course in caring for chickens. Absolutely every challenge that arose was a first for us. Cyndie learned how to clean baby chicken butts when several of them developed problems.

We gambled on moving them to the coop before the weather had really warmed up consistently. We basically guessed our way through training them to free range, yet return to the coop. Finally, we left them completely on their own to avoid any number of potential passing predators.

Unfortunately, the losses started with Delilah, who ended up producing our first fatality when she broke free and grabbed a Rhode Island Red by the neck. Then in June, we lost six birds all in one horrible evening to an unseen attacker.

Somehow, the three that have survived all the challenges are closing in on their first birthday next month. I feel like they are doing it almost in spite of us.

After what the Buff has just been through, she has earned the bragging rights as toughest of them all.

Here’s hoping they all channel the survival skills gained in their first year into long and prosperous lives, and more importantly, that they might teach any new chicks that happen to show up, how to do the same.



Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2018 at 7:00 am

Please No

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Not again. This morning, we are wondering what we will find when the door to the chicken coop is opened. Yesterday, Delilah once again broke a hook holding her leash and this time attacked the Buff Orpington hen.

I was up on the other side of the house splitting wood when my phone rang. Cyndie’s voice immediately revealed something was wrong.









Intent on making my way through the entire pile of logs stacked at the base of the big oak tree, which first required sledge-hammering them out of the frozen block they had become, I had already fought off several urges to take a break and do something else.

I couldn’t deny the urgency implied by Cyndie’s call.

Rushing down to the sunny southern end of the barn, I found Cyndie standing with the chicken in her arms. She wanted me to hold the bird so she could search for visible injury that would explain the blood on the ground. Finding nothing, she took the Buff back and asked me to look.

I suggested she give the hen a chance to stand on her own and we could watch her. The Buff stood just fine, but that is when I noticed blood on the beak. It appears the injury was internal.

We are hoping maybe she just bit her tongue. She was breathing and swallowing, with some effort, and the bleeding did not appear to be continuing more than the initial small amount.

If she survived the night, the next goal will be to witness her drinking water and eventually eating food.

As soon as Cyndie had reached the dog and saved the chicken, she marched Delilah up to the house and shut her inside. When we came in for lunch, it was pretty clear the fiercely carnivorous canine was aware she had displeased her master. Her body language was all about remorse.

It was hard to not continue being extremely mad with Delilah for hurting the chicken, but that moment was now in the past.

I decided to take her out for a heavy-duty workout. Strapping on snowshoes, I headed off to pack down a path on our trails that hadn’t received much attention since the last few snowfall events.

Since Delilah has a compulsion to be out in front and pull, that meant she was breaking trail most of the way and expending more energy than normal, which worked right into my plan.

Much to Delilah’s surprise, I also had a plan to double back in the direction from which we had just come, giving me a chance to pack several of our paths a second time.

Each time that happened, Delilah would race to come back toward me and then pass by to get out in front again, pulling against the leash to which I gladly added drag.

I’m pretty sure any energy she got from engaging in the attack was long gone after her unusually intense afternoon walkabout, but I doubt she fully grasps that our earlier displeasure was because the chickens hold protected status.

We’re not confident, but we hope we’ll still have three chickens to continue teaching Delilah to leave alone, despite her irresistible canine instincts.



Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Other News

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While Delilah and the horses have been getting a lot of attention lately, the chickens and Pequenita haven’t been entirely neglected.

When it gets extremely cold, the chickens tend to stay put all day in their coop, but some days they surprise us and venture out anyway. This week, Cyndie reported, one day it was the Buff Orpington making the trek to the barn overhang, and the next, it was the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens.









They have us wondering if there might be some issue between the two breeds, that they are doing less commingling lately.

Last night, Pequenita was ferocious about getting some attention from me, so I decided to put a video designed for cats on my laptop screen. She went nuts for it.

A little mouse keeps darting across the screen. She quickly moved her search to the back and sides of the computer to see where the critter was going when it disappeared from view. We were both highly entertained.

It was a nice distraction from some of the dreary news of the day. Have I mentioned how sad I am over the deplorable political situation in this country? And now the thawing permafrost is going to release noxious Mercury gas into the atmosphere.

Although, on the subject of news, one item was out of this world fantastic. If you haven’t seen video of the Falcon Heavy Test yet, I hope you will make time to absorb the ramifications of this spectacular feat while witnessing the amazing footage of a new milestone in space exploration.

That Tesla Roadster with a space-suited mannequin in it flying through space is one spunky escapade. I love it!

“To infinity, and beyond!”



Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2018 at 7:00 am

Feeling Love

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In my lifetime, the art of feeling love has been a struggle to fully achieve. Luckily, I have had plenty of opportunity to practice. Most precious of all has been having Cynthia Ann Friswold around to repeatedly offer her guidance.

Quite frankly, some of that guidance comes across in a disguise that deftly pushes buttons that I’d rather not have pushed, but that’s part of the secret. Love isn’t always rainbows, flowers, and chocolate. True love is much more complex than that.

As a depressed person, I was distracted from being able to fully love. A combination of treatment for depression and couples therapy for our relationship was key to opening my eyes and my heart to love’s true potential.

Adding animals to our family has expanded my understanding of love to even greater depths.

Last evening, as I was holding our Buff Orpington hen while Cyndie worked diligently to remove globs of dried poop from the chicken’s tail feathers, I silently conveyed our love to the bird imprisoned by my grasp. Between a few isolated moments of flinching in discomfort, she generally rested her head against me and waited out the task.

We can hope she was able to tell our motives were pure.

Cyndie wanted me to offer the hen a red raspberry treat in reward for her patience of enduring the awkward procedure, but the Buff showed no interest. She just gave it the eye, with total detachment.

I had no idea that owning chickens might involve needing to bring them in out of the cold in the winter to wash and dry their butts. It’s a good thing they have gotten us to fall in love with them.

Owning horses is a whole ‘nother level of love.

Before our four Arabians had even arrived, back when we were having paddock fencing installed, a water line being buried, and a hay shed being built, the excavator arrived in his giant dump truck and chatted out his window with me at our first meeting. He asked what this project was about, and I told him my wife wants to get horses.

In a high-pitched voice of alarm, he exclaimed, “HORSES!?! It would be cheaper to get a new wife!”

Yes, there are costs to owning horses, but the rewards are pretty much immeasurable.

How do you measure love?

All I know for sure is, I’m feeling an awful lot of it in this latest phase of my life.



Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

January Thaw

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I have lived near the Twin Cities for most of my life, but I never realized how consistently we experience a January thaw. From Meteorologist, Paul Huttner’s Updraft blog:

“A January thaw is defined as two or more consecutive days of high temperatures above 32 degrees. That happens in 93 percent of all years on record for the Twin Cities. In fact, a January thaw is more reliable than a white Christmas (72 percent) in the Twin Cities.”

Everyone at Wintervale is enjoying this little break from the ravages of the deep cold that has besieged us for the last few weeks.

The sunshine and warm Pacific breeze was just right for an afternoon sun bath.

The chickens are much quicker to come out of the coop with the warmer temperatures. The Buff Orpington spent a fair amount of time breaking up frozen sand so her bath could be a mixture of sun and soil.

When I noticed her kicking up a dust cloud storm and wallowing luxuriously in it, I pulled out my camera to record video of the spectacle.

I got two seconds of fluttering and a minute and a half of her sitting mostly still, occasionally pecking at the frozen sand. She was not interested in being the star of my movie.

The scene of Dezirea nodding off in the sun, with her tail flowing gracefully in the gentle breeze turned out to be the more rewarding video, even though it has about the same amount of action as the shot of the hen.

Legacy interrupted my video of Dezirea when he stepped forward to poke his head into the bright sunshine and blocked my view.

We have been trying to absorb this early January thaw for all it is worth, given the impending swing back to serious winter weather being forecast. Tomorrow could become a day of our greatest snow accumulation this season, and the thermometer is expected to sink back to sub-zero overnight temperatures.

Hello, again, winter.

It’s getting hard maintaining a charade of still being on a tropical vacation by simply revisiting our photo albums.

But that doesn’t prevent us from putting forth an effort.



Written by johnwhays

January 10, 2018 at 7:00 am

Brief Respite

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The air doesn’t have that same bite this morning. The temperature didn’t drop below zero last night. When I opened the chicken door of the coop today, the two Barred Plymouth Rock hens wasted no time in running to their favorite hangout spot with the horses under the barn overhang.

Missing this morning is the bright sunshine of the cold, clear air that slapped us in the face yesterday. That sunrise cast a long shadow as it climbed over the horizon.

Today, we have grayness dominating dawn’s first light. That didn’t provide the cover I expect the deer in our woods was counting on as it rested a few yards off the trail as Delilah and I wandered by. I probably would have missed seeing it if we hadn’t just explored the deer trails off our paths yesterday afternoon.

As a treat for our hyper-curious dog, I decided to give her a chance to follow the hoof prints wherever they led, through many a tangle of branches that challenged my ability to navigate. With her still on leash, we have to do some negotiating as she frantically searches for morsels of deer droppings.

Sometimes, I contort to get under a low branch, or switch the leash from hand to hand to get around trees. Other times, I make her stop and figure out she needs to come back and go around an obstacle to continue in line with me.

We found a surprising number of melted hollows where deer had been laying. That is what informed my ability to spot the one just off the trail this morning.

Delilah had checked the scent of tracks that left our main trail and then picked up her nose to sniff the air of the woods, just like she always does. This time, I paid enough attention to actually see what she was sensing.

The deer was looking right at us, laying down with its head up, but not moving a muscle. I offered a greeting as I directed Delilah to stay on our path for the duration of the walk.

As pleasant as this break from extreme cold is, the forecast indicates it won’t continue for long. Temperatures could rise above freezing on Tuesday and Wednesday, but then the precipitation that arrives could fall as rain before turning to ice and then snow, after which the overnight low will drop back below zero again.

That’s a fine how-do-you-do.

The sick thing is, that’s also one of the reasons I like living here. Am I a glutton for punishment? Maybe we just like having something to complain about in the weather.

Weather provides adventure that I don’t need to travel to experience. It comes to me.

Meanwhile, I know how to enjoy the occasional brief respite.



Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2018 at 10:51 am

Nice Day

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Saturday was a pretty nice winter day on the ranch. Even the chickens –all three!– came out to enjoy the day. To celebrate, Cyndie raided the kitchen for some grapes to reward the occasion of the Buff Orpington venturing a distance away from the coop.

They even veered off the plowed paths into the fluffy white stuff, traveling interestingly close to tracks of an adventurous mouse. Was that coincidental?

I wonder if that little rodent knew who was lurking about when it scurried across the top of the snowscape.

On Friday, while I was splitting wood with Delilah leashed nearby, I spotted her flinch suddenly. Looking up, I caught sight of a beautiful bald eagle floating at a menacingly low elevation, just above the treetops.

I wasn’t too worried about Delilah, but I did wonder where the chickens were at the moment.

The horses appeared to be mesmerized by the warm December sunshine, spreading out and soaking up the solar energy with a contagious calmness.

In a switch from the situation last week, this time it was Legacy who was out in the hay-field all by himself.

We still think he is behaving uncharacteristically distant at times, but there doesn’t seem to be any unnatural anxiety showing from the herd, and periods of normalcy generally rule.

It was a beautiful day and we feel blessed with the luxury of simply enjoying it to the fullest.



Written by johnwhays

December 17, 2017 at 10:49 am