Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Not Surprising

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I received another weather warning on my phone last night. This time, it wasn’t about another round of plowable snow, but it comes as no surprise that they’ve issued a flood watch for our county. So, it’s out of the frying pan snow machine and into the fire hip waders for us this week.

Oh, joy.

We’ve got so much snow that our 3-board fence looks short enough in some spots that the horses could high-step their way over it. I think the only thing dissuading them from trying is the deepness of the snow on the other side.

We are due to get significant rain tomorrow and Thursday, without anywhere for it to soak in. There are bound to be a number of new rivers and lakes formed in the days ahead.

We’ll probably have the horses in the barn while it is raining, and the chickens will be given the option of venturing out at their own peril, but I’m not confident either of their structures will stay dry.

At least the coop is on stilts. The wood is shrunk from the dry winter air, so there are some gaps in places, I suspect, but it swells up nicely when it gets wet, so that just leaves drips from a few leaky screws in the roof panels.

The barn, on the other hand, is already suffering from areas that were once standing water that subsequently froze and rendered the two big sliding doors inoperable. More water on top of the old ice will not only make that situation worse, it will inevitably start flowing toward the lower ground available inside.

Thank goodness our house is at the top of a hill.

It is not surprising that they chose this spot on which to build.

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

More Snow

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Believe it or not, we spent most of the day yesterday clearing snow!

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Remember the Martin house? Before and after…

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Cyndie likes to shovel a path to the chicken coop so the hens have an easy path to get to their favorite spot under the overhang with the horses. They are spoiled living such a cushy life here with us.

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The day started with snow showers, but around noon the clouds moved out and provided an afternoon of melting under bright sunlight. The snow on the hay shed was losing the battle to gravity, in very slow motion. The snow on the chicken coop was losing the battle with the high March sunshine.

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Here is a before and after view of the labyrinth. We’re going to need to strap on the snowshoes and retrace our steps again.

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Written by johnwhays

March 11, 2019 at 6:00 am

Saving Daylight

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It’s that 23-hour day again. We all get cheated out of a normal hour of sleep in order to feel like there is more daylight today than there was yesterday. Whatever.

Living with, and caring for animals, is one way to notice how laughable our arbitrary adjustment of clock hours is to nature.

Last week, the chickens had already responded to the increased hours of daylight by restarting their egg production. Yesterday, Cyndie cooked up “home-laid” eggs for breakfast again. Even without a lot of live-bug protein in their diets yet, our free-range hens sure produce delectable eggs.

So, the storm blew in yesterday with gusto. Strong winds toppled the multiple-unit Martin house. Neither of us noticed if any residents were displaced. The activity there has rarely been visible, even though there is some nest material inside.

Just like predicted, we received rain for a few hours before it changed over to snow, so the overall accumulation appears to be a more reasonable 5-ish inches (and still falling), instead of twice that, or more, that it could have been.

There’s not enough light out yet to show you how gorgeous the new snow looks, stuck to all the trees, but we’ll have our cameras out while plowing and shoveling all day today, so I expect there will be some scenic shots to share eventually.

In the mean time, here is a shot that Cyndie took which I adore:

I asked her why her snowshoe trail took on the whimsical “s” curves, and she said that she was looking down as she trudged along, and for that last stretch had resorted to simply following Delilah’s footprints in the deep snow.

I guess it’s a visual of where the most canine-alluring scents were wafting in the air on that trail-breaking trek.

Happy Daylight Saving Time to those territories who make the adjustment.

Yawn.

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Long Day

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When I finished fixing the winch cable on the ATV after work Monday, Cyndie helped me get the plow re-mounted so I could clean up the driveway from the morning drift adventure. It had been a long day, so I made short work of the task and headed inside to warm up.

Cyndie asked if I thought it was late enough that the chickens would be in the coop yet. That’s code for, “Will you be the one to go down and close the chickens in for the night?”

I spotted them after I’d taken just a few steps off the driveway. They weren’t inside, they were on the manure pile in the compost area.

I suppose it was warmer footing than standing in the snow. Cyndie had mucked out the stalls earlier in the afternoon and the chickens seemed to take a liking to the fresh addition on top of the snow.

After taking that picture of them, I tried to get the hens to follow me to the coop. They didn’t fall for it, I think because to get there on the shoveled pathway, required starting in the opposite direction of the coop. I got the impression their little chicken brains weren’t processing the logic.

Heck, I’ve even seen the horses, wise as we know them to be, appear to get stuck when an escape involved going away from the direction they ultimately want to achieve.

I walked to the coop without them. To waste some time while waiting for them to figure out the escape route, I started breaking trails in the deep snow around the area. Plodding down a trail that heads toward the shop garage, it occurred to me to open a path between the coop and the compost piles, for the chickens to use. One pass through the deep snow didn’t do much in the way of packing it down to make it easy for bird feet, so this didn’t offer an immediate shortcut. It did, however, bring me up behind the chickens in a way that naturally moved them off the pile in the opposite direction from the coop.

Once I had them moving, I just kept the pressure on, and created a little conga line going down the path toward their nighttime shelter, with me leading from the rear. It was pretty cute, if I do say so myself.

They marched right up the modified ramp (post-possum-crashing incident) and I was able to slide the door shut behind them. Chickens were ready to roost.

It was an entertaining end to my surprisingly long day.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Normal Returns

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Yesterday afternoon’s visit to the barn provided a return to normalcy. Apparently, Cayenne learned whatever it was the other two were trying to convey earlier in the morning, and she was again back in front of the line-up for pans of nutrition pellets.

With the endless mosquito-like buzzing of snowmobilers annoyingly goosing their engines in short staccato bursts (do they understand how engines work?) as they motor past our property on the marked trail, the horses have figured out how to act as if everything is fine and this is the way life should be.

Personally, I prefer the calm and quiet of the months when there was nothing but ice covering the ground, despite the scary challenge it presented for trying to walk anywhere. The snow machines remained parked in storage until about three weeks ago.

The chickens responded to the moderated afternoon temperatures with a (lately) rare excursion out of the coop. At this point, I think all of them are showing signs of some frostbite on their wattles and combs, but we have yet to witness any problems arising as a result. Time will tell.

They were happy to help clean up after Hunter beneath the hay bag where he was dining.

The 7-Day weather forecast for our region tosses in a likelihood of more snow, but at least the temperatures don’t look scary for frostbite. After days of the biting harshness from 35°F below zero temps, normal days seem like a cinch.

It’s refreshing to have the chickens voluntarily out-and-about on a reasonable winter day.

It helped provide a welcome bit of normalcy to our Sunday.

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

Exceptional Effort

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Last week I wrote about one of our Buff Orpington hens who we suspect scrapped with the possum that had gotten into the coop, and has been behaving oddly ever since. It is not clear whether it is a result of exclusion by the rest of the brood, or an act of her own choosing, but she has become a loner from the rest of the bunch.

In the coop, she has taken to staying in one of the nesting boxes, day and night. There is no obvious sign that she is being picked on (pecked on?) by the others, but she repeatedly sets herself apart.

For the most part, the chickens have remained in the coop for over a week while the winter has raged, first with an epic Arctic chill and then subsequent days upon days of snow. More than once, we have opened the chicken door when the harshest temperatures eased.

They’ve showed little interest in dealing with the snow, …or so we thought.

Yesterday, Cyndie came upon a most unusual trail of animal tracks in the deep snow. She worried that it was evidence of a fox stalking our chickens. She checked the coop and counted hens. There was one missing, but there were no obvious tracks, even though the door was open.

On her way back to the barn, she spotted it.

That loner Buff Orpington was sitting by the paddock fence, almost as if stuck in the snow.

The weird trail was the path that hen had traversed through the deep powder snow. She must have almost been swimming to make forward progress. It had to have taken a monumental effort to get as far as she did. I suspect she stopped out of exhaustion.

Cyndie couldn’t get to the hen without first getting a shovel to make her way through the knee-deep snow. She picked up the loner and held her close to warm her.

It’s hard to imagine what drove that Buff to attempt crossing the deep snow toward the barn overhang, other than this ominous behavior of isolating herself from the rest of the brood.

Cyndie put her back in the coop, setting her up on the roost in hopes of re-training her to not spend the nights in a nest box.

That didn’t last, as, by evening, the Buff was back in a box again.

A bit of research turned up a variety of possible internal maladies that may be the cause of her isolation. We are going to let time dictate an outcome, while doing whatever we can to keep the poor girl comfortable.

None of them are laying eggs of late, due to the shortened hours of winter daylight, so it’s difficult to pinpoint egg related issues, if that is what’s ailing her.

Meanwhile, the last visit of the night last night turned up new tracks in the snow that, this time, looked suspiciously fox-like. It is no surprise that the deep snow cover we now have has challenged predators to seek easier prey.

There is plenty of drama to be interpreted in the fascinating markings vividly appearing in all this new snow blanketing our fields and forest. We would prefer that it not involve the taking of any of our animals, but nature will take its course.

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Written by johnwhays

February 14, 2019 at 7:00 am

All Day

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Two all day things: It snowed all day yesterday and we shoveled all day. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here!

On Wednesday night, we noticed all the school districts in our vicinity were announcing they would be closed on Thursday, so I decided that was a pretty good clue that I shouldn’t try driving to the day-job. As a result, I am going in today, in a swap of days for my 4-day work week.

Sitting at my desk today will be a welcome relief from the strenuous exercise of shoveling for hours on end.

I took a little break to see what the horses thought of all these flying flakes. Cyndie caught a picture of Dezirea and me giving each other the eye. I think the horses were growing weary of the long duration of snowfall.

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Cayenne was sporting some cute curls in her long wet winter growth.

I got out the snowshoes to walk Delilah on our trails through the woods. She was so fired up to be out in the deep snow that she wanted to run, but I couldn’t keep up with her at that pace. I felt bad slowing her down.

The chickens showed no interest in leaving the coop. I snowshoed all around the coop to pack down the snow for whenever they decide to come out again. It’s probably going to be too cold for them today, but eventually, they will get tired of being cooped up (literally!) and venture out into the world again.

We have one Buff Orpington that doesn’t seem to be her normal self. We think she may have scrapped with that possum and be suffering some ill effects as a result. Cyndie couldn’t see any obvious physical wounds, so we have decided to just keep her comfortable and see if time heals whatever might be bothering her.

Today, I’m hoping to not do any shoveling all day. I’m expecting to be confused by this disruption of my normal routine, commuting and being at work on a Friday.

I expect it’s going to make my weekend seem unusually short, but my body will appreciate today’s break in the manual labor of property management chores.

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2019 at 7:00 am