Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Morning Scene

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Our spell of extremely cold weather is slowly easing back to normal cold, with this morning’s wake-up temperature just a few degrees (F) below zero. That’s enough of a chill that the chickens were showing reasonable hesitancy about getting up and facing the day. Rocky and a few hens didn’t even leave the coop when given the chance after Cyndie opened the chicken door.

There was an uncharacteristic whiff in the air that something burned that shouldn’t overnight, but nothing in our line of sight showed any evidence of disruption. It’s a strange feeling to wake up so completely oblivious to significant activity that may have happened nearby during our contented slumber. It was too prominent a smell and spread over the large expanse of our entire valley to not have been something noteworthy.

The sky was cloudless and the air just thick enough that a thin coating of frost is covering our branches. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

The bite of the pre-dawn chill had many of our chickens looking to get their feet off the cold ground as they huddled in the corner where the sunshine will first arrive when it makes its way above the treeline. We’ve propped up a couple branches for their benefit. I noticed two of the Domestiques chose to balance impressively on one foot on the wobbly perch so they could keep the other foot tucked up inside their feathers for warmth.

I have a feeling the solar energy will warm the day in multiple ways today.

Don’t know if it will be able to do anything about the odd smoky smell, but it is definitely boosting the emotional outlook a good amount.

That’s how it goes after you’ve just endured weeks of epic deep-freeze temperatures.



Written by johnwhays

February 20, 2021 at 10:24 am

Relief Comes

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The temperature climbed above zero (F) yesterday. Given the reference point of the biting cold that we have been subject to for the last couple of weeks, stepping out into the February sunshine felt remarkably comfortable. Warm, even. Though it really wasn’t.

Just a little relief from the hunched clenching posture we and the chickens have been maintaining opens up a surprising amount of renewal in mind and body. Rocky and the hens were taking full advantage of the sunny wall on the end of the barn where we clear the snow for them.

Cyndie said the yellow Buff Orpington visible in the background of the image was digging in to take a little dust bath.

In a crazy coincidence of timing, Cyndie sent me a text about how big the icicle had grown from the corner of the barn roof. I suggested she knock it down proactively to avoid it falling unexpectedly. By the time she arrived to tend to the task, it had already fallen on its own.

Apparently, the frozen stalactite sensed our plan just as we were hatching it and took matters up with good old gravity to save us any extra trouble.

I struggle to reconcile a mixture of glee and guilt over the relative good fortune we are enjoying compared to the weather much of the rest of our country is suffering. The extreme cold we have dealt with is something we have lifetimes of experience and knowledge to cope with, while the cold and snow disrupting life in Texas and beyond is bizarrely out of the ordinary for them.

I feel for the hassles they are dealing with while also being grateful we have been spared a similar level of calamity.

May the southern states appreciate how quickly their climbing temperatures will melt the uncharacteristic amounts of snow that have fallen on them as we endure the typical long, slow transition from winter to spring our latitude abides.

Either way, relief does eventually come.



Written by johnwhays

February 17, 2021 at 7:00 am

Forging Ahead

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The bite of persistent extreme cold weather continues to oppressively dominate life for us and our stoic chickens. There is little in the way of frivolous activity from the hens, beyond the brave layers who make extra trips between the nest boxes in the coop and the nook under the barn overhang where they have been spending the rest of the daylight hours.

Surprisingly, this cold snap does not appear to be stifling the continued development of the maturing hens into the egg-laying phase of their lives. Yesterday, we were gifted with six eggs, the most in one day so far from this brood. Unsurprisingly, not all of the eggs were found before freezing to the point of cracking.

Not all of the eggs were laid in one of the nest boxes, but at least four of the layers chose the same box.

As of yesterday, we hadn’t yet made the transition to using egg cartons when collecting eggs. When it is only one or two eggs, both Cyndie and I tend to slip them into pockets for the trip back up to the house. Once we start finding a half-dozen or more at one time, our stash of old egg cartons definitely comes into play.

As Cyndie multitasked yesterday to walk Delilah, collect the emptied trash and recycling bins, and collect eggs from the coop, she was suddenly met with —


With Delilah’s leash quick-clipped to the handle of one of the bins and Cyndie’s grip on each of the two bins, eggs in her jacket pocket, our alerted canine unexpectedly bolted 90° sideways over the snow piled along the edge of the driveway.

The jolt on the leash yanked so powerfully it pulled both the bins and Cyndie into the bank of snow where she toppled over and unceremoniously landed headfirst in the snow, resulting in one broken egg in her pocket.

She made her way back to upright and got Delilah under control and forged ahead for the warmth of the house.

Today is even colder than yesterday and tomorrow is due to be colder than today.

We’ll just keep on keeping on, uncertain of what frigid adventure might result next.



Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2021 at 11:06 am

Another Saturday

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Another Saturday morning when I get to choose what will get my attention. It’s hard to ignore the most prominent fact imposing its way over almost everything we pick. Our weather has entered a cold spell. In our region, winter cold spells mean below zero Fahrenheit. Not quite polar region craziness of 70-below, but days of any number below-zero bitter cold might as well have the same impact.

Preparing to exit the home module for any length of time involves donning garb that rivals climbing into a spacesuit. If you don’t like wearing a facemask for protection from spreading the coronavirus, you won’t like going outside today.

Delilah paces semi-patiently at the front door while we methodically navigate the fine art of adding multiple layers of apparel and accessories in precise order. She takes several slurps from her water bowl in preparation for the impending outing.

It occurred to me this morning that, if we didn’t have a dog or chickens, we wouldn’t need to get out of bed and go outside when it is so wickedly cold. Some people don’t have to go outside if they don’t want to. I didn’t want to go outside, but I didn’t mind that we had to.

The snow squeaked under our boot steps. Eyelashes occasionally stick together as they frost up. Moving air starts to sting exposed flesh. Every few steps, Delilah will keep one paw up and hop once or twice to give that foot a break from contacting the snow. She emphatically rejected our several attempts in the past to offer her winter booties.

The chickens seemed nonplussed by the harsh conditions. We added some extra straw to the coop and installed a radiant heat source to ease their burden a little bit. They seemed to be demonstrating their winter hardiness, as advertised for our variety of breeds.

Accomplishing our goals with minimal distractions allowed us to promptly return to the safe warmth of our spaceship where Cyndie prepared an omelet for breakfast that rivaled a 3-star chef’s and I ignited an inspiring fire in the fireplace.

I am leaving the decision for later about whether I will interrupt my indoor endorphin-producing hobbies to go outside and finish clearing the snow off the deck that I pulled down off the roof eaves yesterday.

It’s Saturday. Morning cartoons, hot cocoa, snuggling under a blanket, giggling with family, listening to music, reading a book, writing inspirations, laughing at our foibles, assembling a puzzle, staring at the fire, it’s the best day of the week type of stuff.

Baby, it’s cold outside, but that is just the way things go sometimes.

There are plenty of ways to cope and we are going to employ several of them and enjoy this Saturday to the fullest. I invite you to do the same, whether you are experiencing a polar vortex or reside somewhere closer to the equator than we do.



Well Warned

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Modern meteorology provides impressive advanced warning of serious weather coming our way, but knowing about it so far in advance and hearing about the impending extremes over and over for days in a row tends to inflate the impact beyond reality.

Sure, it’s going to get cold. Thanks for letting us know. Now talk about something else.

Cyndie ordered some fancy heaters for the chicken coop, hoping they arrive quick enough to take the edge of the bitter cold our birds will be subject to with nothing but their fluffed feathers to insulate them. One protection we read about involves covering their wattles and combs with petroleum jelly to stave off frostbite. We’d have to catch them, first.

Neither of us wanted to put the chickens (or ourselves) through the added stress of that escapade.

Yesterday it was above freezing here. By Sunday, they are telling us the high temperature for the day won’t make it out of the negative digits.

We appreciate the warning.

Now I’m going to think about something else.



Written by johnwhays

February 4, 2021 at 7:00 am

Too Late

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By the time I got home from work to check for eggs yesterday, I was too late to do anything for this perfect specimen:

Warm when it was laid, the egg melted its way down into the ice on the path between the coop and the barn. After it cooled, it became locked in the resulting ice that surrounded it.

One of the hens just isn’t getting the hang of this egg-laying thing. At least, we hope it’s just one. This is the fourth egg laid out in the middle of nowhere. Somebody isn’t yet reading the signals in her body that trigger the others to head back to the coop for the nest boxes.

Meanwhile, two others did make use of the nest boxes and it appears we may have another one of those 1-in-a-thousand double-yoke eggs based on the size of one of those eggs.

Never a dull moment in the early egg-laying phase of raising chickens, especially when it happens to coincide with the harsher months of winter.



Written by johnwhays

February 3, 2021 at 7:00 am

Another Stray

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We received a little more than a dusting of snow overnight, but not quite an inch. It’s annoying, actually, in a region where it’s not certain whether the paltry amount will melt or add to possible future accumulations. Does it deserve the effort of plowing? Should I clear the valley on the roof where ice dams often result?

There are more times than I like to admit when I have wished I had cleaned up a previous snow event that I originally chose to ignore.

Cyndie was pondering sweeping the fresh snow cover away near the barn for the benefit of our royal residents, the chickens. Heaven forbid they be forced to deal with the elements like feral chickens.

Based on their initial egg-laying performances, they are behaving more like wild birds than the domesticated coop-homed free-rangers they are. We are witnessing the successful initial use of the nest boxes in the coop at a rate of about 70%. The other times, eggs appear to show up in any and all locations where the brood happens to find themselves.

There was a single frozen egg discovered this morning next to the wall of the barn. Oops.

It’s hard to tell right now exactly which birds are laying among the thirteen. Based on the number of eggs in a day, likely 4 or maybe 5 are starting to produce. We are starting to get a routine of three eggs a day.

It’s a good thing our primary focus is not on gaining eggs, but on having happy, healthy chickens roaming our grounds. Eggs are just a wonderful added benefit that we try not to neglect.




Written by johnwhays

January 31, 2021 at 11:11 am

Cheery Morning

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Neither Cyndie nor I are naturally fond of waking and getting out of bed in the morning. It tends to occur begrudgingly. I don’t view the occasion as being the opposite of not waking up at all, but rather of lingering in snoozeville and remaining snuggled beneath the warmth of our blankets and pillows. A much-preferred alternative.

Alas, pets demand and deserve timely attention first thing in the morning and Delilah must go out and the chickens want out of their coop for some breakfast.

This morning, against our everlasting preference, we both triumphed over the angst of getting up and entered into cheery histrionics while clumsily dressing and narrating and orating our comical foibles. I’ll just say, I’m not the one who has mistakenly ended up with bottoms on backward or inside out. I can’t claim that virtuosity with tops, however.

It was a beautiful day outside, reasonably mild in the hours preceding an expected bout of ice and snow on the way.

The chickens were all in fine form and very talkative while emerging from the coop to greet the day.

No sign whatsoever of sharing our hesitancy about greeting the day.

They continue to mature and are showing signs of dialing in the art of egg-laying. We received a 1-in-1000 double yolk the other day. By the looks of the size of the shell, that appeared to be an uncomfortable object to pass for a new layer.

Made for a doubly-delicious bullseye breakfast, however!



Written by johnwhays

January 30, 2021 at 11:00 am

Early Production

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After the appearance of a new small egg a week or so ago, we are noticing more of our young chickens are beginning to lay. I’m always impressed that they actually use the nest boxes, of which we have four. It’s interesting that we commonly find two hens squeezed into the same box at the same time.

Yesterday, Cyndie discovered one of the layers hasn’t figured out the nest box routine and was laying eggs in the sand of the far corner below the poop board, where visibility is restricted.

They didn’t fare well unnoticed for a few days against the frigid winter temperatures.

A small “first-try” egg also showed up in one of the feed pans.

We have a range of sizes showing up during this start-up period.

It won’t be long now and we will be flush with fresh free-range eggs. Hopefully, they will be showing up in the nest boxes more often than not.

Our track record in this regard tells me we have good reason to watch out for out-layers.



Written by johnwhays

January 21, 2021 at 7:00 am

New Puzzle

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The urge has been rekindled in a big way lately. Jigsaw puzzling has become a daily craving once more. Much to both our surprise, Cyndie has picked up the bug as much as I and for the first time in all our years together, we are sharing the joys of assembling the scattered pieces.

I recently received a hot tip on another chicken puzzle, this one by the Cobble Hill Puzzle Company.

With an all-white border, we are again foregoing the usual norm of completing all the edges before moving on to other details. I’m finding it wonderfully liberating.

An anonymous quote included among the many on the puzzle:

“A true friend is someone who thinks you are a good egg, even when you are slightly cracked.”

Yeah. Like that.




Written by johnwhays

January 19, 2021 at 7:00 am