Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chicks

Self Taught

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The Buffalo gals taught themselves to climb their ramp into the coop at dusk! I had just arrived upon the scene as Cyndie was working to find a hole in the netting that would explain how one of the Rockettes ended up hanging out against the outside of the courtyard fencing. I did a quick head-count of both sets of chicks and walked around to where Cyndie was working.

The next time I looked in on the Buffalo gals, they were gone. All 12 had headed inside by their own volition.

That left the Rockettes to be tested with our new idea of herding them to their ramp to see if they would take the hint to climb up on their own. Very quickly half of them did take that hint, but the rest were a harder sell.

They seemed much more interested in cowering underneath their ramp and unleashing a cacophony of chirping. A modicum of hands-on support helped convey the intent and soon all birds were cooped for the night.

I think they will catch on to the ultimate routine soon, but further lessons will be delayed until after the weekend. Our trusty animal sitter is on duty starting today as we are off to the lake for a few days again. My birthday buddy, Paul, and his wife, Beth, are joining us up at Wildwood. There’ll be some biking happening, as I need to put on some miles in preparation for day-long riding beginning in a week on the 2021 Tour of Minnesota.

I wonder where I stashed my tent two years ago after the last Tour.

That ability I have to forget stuff… self-taught, I’m pretty sure.

I can’t really remember.

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Written by johnwhays

June 11, 2021 at 6:00 am

Sweaty Horses

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We are on our umpteenth day in a row of high-heat weather and the stress on growing plants is getting visible. Overnight Tuesday we were awoken by a brilliant flash of lightning with its associated crack of thunder that one would assume to equal rainfall. We received no noticeable moisture from the atmosphere.

Where we haven’t kept up with watering, our plants are suffering.

Our animals all seem to be tolerating the heat, but the horses are a sweaty mess. They almost look like they’ve just finished running a race. [slight exaggeration] To add a little flamboyance to their appearance, they take turns rolling in the dusty dirt to create a little mud pack that seems to provide some protection from the hot sun and biting flies.

The chicks don’t seem to care about the heat because they have those fabulous grassy courtyards covered by shade where they can romp all day long. We are in the phase of chick-rearing that requires forcing them back into the coop by hand because they haven’t properly developed that natural instinct of going inside on their own for the night.

Chick wrangling is not one of my favorite tasks. They don’t make it easy.

When we finally got to the last couple of the older bunch, they actually chose to run up the ramp themselves instead of succumbing to the grasp of our scary hands. It inspired me to next time devise a method of corralling them into an ever-shrinking space that funnels directly to the ramp so they can practice getting back inside without being grabbed.

By the time all the chick chasing was done, it was the humans who were sweaty.

We chose to pass on the rolling in the dirt thing.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2021 at 6:00 am

Chicks Grazing

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For your viewing pleasure, hang out with our chicks for a couple of minutes and get a sense of how much fun it is to watch their methods of exploring the courtyard we fenced in this weekend outside their coop door.

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Aah, but they grow up so fast. In no time they will be free-ranging chickens devouring acres of insects.

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Written by johnwhays

June 7, 2021 at 6:00 am

Rocky’s Progeny

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The 13 chicks that hatched from eggs fertilized by our late New Hampshire Red rooster, Rocky, have now developed enough features to better guess at which breed their mothers were. The batch we’ve referred to as the “Rockettes” will be subdivided to break out six pullets who will eventually be “Baxterettes,” reflecting a plan to share them with my brother’s family in the Brainerd area of Minnesota.

That surprise rooster we were blessed to receive unexpectedly in a batch of egg-layers we ordered online during the pandemic will have quite a legacy from his cut-way-too-short life.

The twenty-five chicks currently sharing the “twin-home” coop divided in half by a plastic netting are all doing well during this span of time when they are confined to quarters. We are currently working to prepare the boundaries of two separate courtyards –one front, one in back– where they will be allowed daytime excursions on real dirt with actual green growth to destroy.

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We aren’t sure yet about how many of the 13 Rockettes are roosters in the making, but we are confident it is more than zero. Looking at the images above, we believe we have the following numbers of breeds:

Quantity 6 Barnevelders; two with darker coloring on head and neck (a difference of gender maybe?). One each of these can be seen on the far left and far right of the image on the left.

Quantity 2 Light Brahmas; mostly yellow with white wing feathers and a hint of feathers growing on feet, seen second from left.

Quantity 4 yellow-headed chicks with reddish-brown feathers that look a mix of New Hampshire Red/Barnevelder, third from left.

Quantity 1 Dominique; easily identified for being black head to toe and almost disappears in the image on the right.

Cyndie has reported seeing pairs of the Rockette chicks chest-bumping already but I saw nothing but happy romping siblings in my extended watching yesterday.

We housed the Buffalo Gals on the backside of the coop where the chicken access door is located, but that lacked ventilation in this record-setting hot weather. I rigged a way to temporarily cover the opening with 1/4″ mesh hardware cloth so we could leave the door open during the day.

The high heat will inspire us to hasten preparations to get their courtyards secure so we can let them out into more open air.

The wild pigeons choosing to nest in our barn lost about a half-dozen chicks yesterday that we found sprawled out on the ground in multiple places, so this heat needs to be taken seriously.

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Written by johnwhays

June 5, 2021 at 9:35 am

Chicks Moved

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We left the lake place yesterday morning with the weather doing everything possible to make our departure as conflicting as possible. Alas, tasks at home beckoned, energizing us to focus on hitting the road before lunchtime.

Upon greeting our animals, we immediately turned our attention to planting the trillium we brought home with us. Instead of planting in spread-out sets of three, this time we are experimenting with planting them all together in a closer bunch.

They were pretty droopy by the time we got home, but most stems appeared to stand back up after we got them in the ground and watered. Time will tell whether they accept what we’ve done to them and go on to establish themselves 125 miles south of their previous location.

Next order of business was to complete the dividing of the coop space and then move the chicks from each of their separate brooder locations.

The Buffalo Gals went first and acted rather unwilling about getting picked up for the transfer.

We decided to move both sets of chicks to the coop on the same day, combining the shock of a new location and the first exposure to other birds to happen all at once.

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It was hard to tell which troubled each batch more, the new digs or the strange other chirping birds suddenly appearing in close proximity.

By nightfall, they all seemed to be doing just fine with their abrupt change in housing.

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Written by johnwhays

June 1, 2021 at 6:00 am

Divided Passions

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I am torn between two worlds this morning. As thrilled as I am to be able to spend the next four days up at the lake for the Memorial Day weekend, I’m struggling over a great desire to remain home to tend the property, grow our bonds with the horses, and work on transitioning our chicks from the brooder to the coop.

When I got home from work yesterday, we decided to take advantage of the wet weather to transplant another pine tree. This one had sprouted just beyond the deck in a spot where there was little room for future growth. While we were pulling up the roots, Cyndie also extracted a fair-sized maple sapling, so we transplanted that, as well.

They are both visible in the image above, despite also being mostly obscured by a similar colored background. Our spontaneous decision to jump into the unplanned project swallowed up over an hour of time that felt like mere minutes had passed. Completing the transplants fueled a strong urge to get right back outside managing the explosion of growth everywhere on our property.

It will need to wait for another day. We are headed north this morning. Lake place, here we come! It’s been far too long between visits.

I hope the chicks won’t miss us too much.

We looked in on the Rockettes last night before bed and found them looking hale and hearty. Their wing feathers are coming along nicely. They are doing a fair amount of my favorite chick leg-stretch/wing-stretch maneuvers that look so yoga-like. Cyndie added a cover grate to their tub to keep the little test-flyers within the confines of the bin.

We want to move them to the big brooder in the barn as soon as we can move the Buffalo Gals to the coop. I expect that will be a project for when we get home on Monday.

Our current animal-sitter, Anna, a student in her last year at UW River Falls, will be tending to animals while we are gone.

I’m pretty sure I’ll be gung-ho about being away as soon as we hit the road, but I am definitely torn about wanting to be in both places at the same time. Too bad we can’t bring some chicks with us to the lake.

They’re just so cyoooooouute!

Go to the lake, John.

Okay, okay. B’bye!

Oh, and bring back more trillium when you return…

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Written by johnwhays

May 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

Chicken Thoughts

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It was a good question. What are we going to do differently to protect our new chickens this time? When I heard myself answering, I realized how little in-depth thought I have actually given the subject.

Are we doing them justice by raising them amid the same risk of predation that decimated all our flocks before? I’m not sure.

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Cyndie has dubbed them the Buffalo Gals and the Rocketts in reference to their origins.

My primary reason for wanting our chickens to free-range is for the service they provide in controlling bugs. I’ve also discovered how much fun they are as companions and that they convert the things they find to eat into amazing eggs.

I’m not against considering ways we might dissuade such frequent attacks on our flock as we recently experienced. I will put renewed effort into staging my trail cam in locations where I might capture evidence of visiting predators to give better confirmation of what we are dealing with.

It feels a little like our efforts to constrain water runoff and control erosion or prevent excessive sediment where we don’t want it.

Nature does what it does. Our best successes will come from finding constructive adaptations instead of entirely stopping things we don’t desire from happening.

Imagine the predation phenomena from the perspective of the flies and ticks that try to survive on our land. They are under constant assault from chickens.

Our chickens face threats from their natural predators. We’ve decided to not confine them to fenced quarters that would make it harder for the fox or coyotes to kill them.

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Today, we hope to clean up the coop and try making some modifications to accommodate housing more birds than ever before. The Buffalo Gals will be moving to the coop soon. That will allow us to get the Rockets out of the basement bathroom and into the larger brooder tub in the barn.

We will give our chickens the best life possible for their time with us. Past demonstrations have shown their natural instincts help them control their own destiny up to a point. Their life here will not be risk-free.

For the time being, I guess we are demonstrating we are choosing to accept that.

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Lucky Thirteen

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 The final tally from the hatch is thirteen chicks. It’s too early for us to discern the percentage of genders among them, but breeds appear to be spread across all the hens we had, which is very rewarding since the eggs selected were random and of unknown origin.

Just one black chick, which we believe to be from the Domestique. The others with coloring align with Barnevelders and the ones with feathery feet are easily pegged for Light Brahmas. There may be some New Hampshire or Wyandotte, too. In the image above, two chicks were messing around away from the group.

Combined with the twelve chicks Cyndie purchased, we are looking at housing twenty-five chickens in the coop in the weeks ahead. I’m going to need to add one more branch for roosting.

After the prolonged exposure to peeping chicks the last two days, I found my sleep disrupted in the middle of the night Tuesday by the frighteningly similar, though uncharacteristically loud, peeping of a frog or frogs outside our open bedroom window. From the edge of consciousness, I was forced to try to figure out why I was hearing the chicks for some strange reason.

Scary echoes of what it was like to be a new parent and have sleep interrupted by any sound that could mean a threat to a newborn.

I take some consolation in the fact these chicks take more naps than our kids ever did.

At the same time, I find myself wrestling with a concern that we are simply raising coyote food. I prefer not framing them as such, but part of me remains acutely aware that we have done nothing to eliminate that ongoing threat.

Could a poultry protection dog that doesn’t have any taste for eating chicken, nor an urge to play “chase” with them, be a possible option for us? It’s hard to say.

I know by now to never rule anything out.

There was a day when I couldn’t envision how we would ever accomplish having chickens to help control flies when we had no experience and no coop in which to house them.

Now we have twenty-five and a coop I built from scratch. What an amazing adventure it is that we are living.

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Written by johnwhays

May 20, 2021 at 6:00 am

Spectacular Hatchapalooza!

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I had no idea how this would all play out, but every last moment thus far has been just plain “Wow!” Witnessing eggs hatch is nothing short of hypnotizingly mesmerizing, and I do mean both.

The first beauty surprised us both by emerging just a couple of hours after Cyndie’s early morning audit revealed 9 out of 17 eggs had visible “pips” in the shells. That first chick was getting pretty lonely by 2:30 in the afternoon, which is when I arrived to witness chick number two emerge.

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It takes everything in our power to wrench ourselves away from the amazing nature show that causes time to evaporate but we did it a few times yesterday to eat some dinner, walk Delilah, feed the dog and cat, brush our teeth, and force ourselves to go to bed.

Every time we checked back, there were more chicks.

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One thing I didn’t expect was how synchronously they would behave with each other. Being well-familiar with days-old chicks from previous experience, we are used to seeing how they can instantaneously drop into nap mode. These hatchlings were putting in a Herculean effort of chipping out of the shell, which had them pausing for many naps.

After they are out of the shell, they continue to abruptly crash into instant sleep, and from what we saw, it is highly contagious. It is fascinating to watch. Suddenly all nine of the hatched chicks would lay down as if dead for maybe twenty seconds. When one pops up, all the others take the cue and a sort of cage match chaos resumes, right up until they all fall down again less than a minute later.

Put that on endless repeat, except that it never gets boring. Try falling asleep in your bed when you know there are eggshells being chipped open so that a prehistoric-dragon-looking baby chicken can see our world for the first time in the bathroom downstairs.

We noticed at least one chick with feathers on its feet, ala our Light Brahmas. There are others with hints of dark markings, but mostly, they all seem to have a coloring that reminds us of their dad, Rocky the rooster.

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Written by johnwhays

May 19, 2021 at 6:00 am

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