Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘merging flocks

Guessing Game

leave a comment »

With our fields all freshly cut for hay, we have been inviting the horses out to graze in the pasture again. They have shown much less interest than I expected to see. I think they know how dry it all is and find it no better than what is available closer to the water and their preferred territory inside the paddocks.

Last night, Cyndie and I walked out into the back pasture to see if they would join us. Mia eventually made her way into the round pen.

Swings and Mix followed along after a bit, Swings stepping inside and Mix choosing to circle around outside.

Light chose to stay back under the overhang until much later. After we had exited the pasture and moved our focus to the chickens, Light showed up to graze just inside the pasture, parallel to the coop.

Can you tell the difference between the older Buffalo Gals and the younger Rockettes?

It’s difficult to tell unless we focus on the breed. Of course, with the mixed results of the chicks we hatched that Rocky the New Hampshire Red fertilized, the breeds are not entirely obvious. It’s still not obvious which of the Rockettes are roosters in hiding.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Those two faces are looking much more rooster-like than the rest of the young ones, but they aren’t visibly bigger yet and their legs don’t stand out as distinctly thicker/longer.

With 25 birds constantly in motion, it’s hard to keep track of which one is which. I’m pretty sure I’ve counted the same one twice every time I’ve tried since we merged the two groups. Until the size becomes obvious or they grow rooster tails, it’s pretty much a guessing game about the ultimate outcome of our hatched chicks.

One thing is for sure, though. None of them look like chicks anymore.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2021 at 6:00 am

Shelter Choices

leave a comment »

Around dinner time yesterday, we experienced a brief but oh-so-welcome rain shower that provided a glimpse of the choices our horses make. I had finished my mowing and manure management chores and was headed back up to the house when it started to sprinkle. The two chestnuts, Mia and Light, were happily grazing in the middle of the big paddock.

Cyndie had left the two split pieces of poop board out on the grass to be cleaned now that we can resume using the one-piece board again after removing the divider in the coop. When I came upon her tending to the vegetable garden, I mentioned they aren’t waterproof. As the rain intensified, I decided to go back down right away and put them in the barn.

When I arrived, I noticed the chestnuts had disappeared. I looked toward the back pasture but didn’t see them. I was curious whether they would stand out in the rain or seek shelter.

From inside the barn, I looked out to find Swings and Mix under the overhang, but not Mia or Light. Where did they go?

I stepped out under the overhang and found my answer:

They’re not so dumb. Even in its gradually dying condition, the fading willow tree provides shelter from the rain.

In comparison, Mix was standing half under the overhang, leaving her butt out to get wet and Swings chose to stay completely dry, standing all the way under the roof while munching on some hay.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

For some unexpected reason, there was no raccoon activity evident overnight Monday. I’m wondering if they caught on that the traps lead to disappearances and are staying away for the time being, but that must take some strong willpower given the sweet marshmallow bait being offered up.

In their first night together in the undivided coop, the Rockettes and Buffalo birds appeared to get along just fine. Our timing to merge them seems good. I’m finding it increasingly difficult to tell the difference of who’s who between the two groups, as the difference in their sizes is much less obvious.

Here’s hoping their relationships continue to develop smoothly and they all get along as well as the horses have been, at least until the cockerels’ testosterone kicks into gear and the roosters all try to fulfill their desires of becoming the big man on campus.

At that point, Cyndie and I will likely be the ones choosing the best places to seek shelter.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2021 at 6:00 am

Several Things

leave a comment »

First of all, while I was on the bike trip, Cyndie contacted pest removal professionals to get rid of the raccoons that have made themselves so at home around here lately. Thus far, three have been captured and two remain at large.

Traps are set and baited in hope of getting the last of them.

Yesterday morning, while Cyndie was tending to the chicks, one of the Rockettes got outside of the fencing. In its tizzy to get back on the safe side of the netting, it found an opening that the raccoons had made the night before. The thing was, though, the opening was to the Buffalo gals/guy side of our divider.

Cyndie decided that was enough excuse to open the barrier and merge the two broods a little sooner than we had planned.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It ended up being a kerfuffle-free mixer-upper. The older Buffalo brood had already scoured their courtyard free of any green growth but the Rockettes hadn’t, so the big draw was grass. There were some occasional knowing rearrangements and relocations of proximity by each group that showed they are keenly aware of who is or isn’t a member of each brood, but just as many moments when they behaved with obliviousness about each other.

Later in the day, I was trying to get the grass cut before predicted afternoon rain showers showed up. Just as I was nearing the usual point where I stop and refuel, there was a new gust of wind that ushered in much cooler air. Dark clouds were rolling in and some sprinkles started to fall.

I needed to park the lawn tractor in the shop garage with haste so I could hustle over to the deck on the backside of the house to fetch my tent before it got soaked by real raindrops. I had set it up there to sweep it clean and let it dry in the sun.

This is what I found when I arrived:

Oops. That gust I felt had picked up the tent and tossed it over the grill and dropped it upside down into the landscape pond. So much for drying it out.

Now the tent is airing out in the garage at the house.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2021 at 6:00 am

Happy Chickens

leave a comment »

Our newest chickens are now about four and a half months old and have reached a size that has the two remaining hens from the previous batch mixing with them as equals. As a group, they are behaving as the happiest and friendliest of yard pets. Almost too friendly, in fact. They are showing no hesitation about racing up to us when we are walking Delilah, who would not hesitate for one second to grab a mouthful of feathers.

On an afternoon walk after our Thanksgiving feast, Cyndie made me stop to occupy the chickens while she hustled ahead with the dog.

She paused to look back and see me chicken-whispering to thank them for agreeing to wear face masks for my little photoshoot the day before.

They had been very accommodating, lining up politely for their fitting.

This morning, there was a new level of excitement because Rocky found his voice again and was crowing many times in a row after weeks of silence following his initial experiments.

Rocky’s coloring and sheen are launching him far beyond the splendor of his brood of adoring pullets.

We continue to visualize his protective spirit as one that will include us and any people visiting as non-threats. He could be our ultimate test of the power of our chicken-whispering abilities.

For now, we are thoroughly enjoying the present state of bliss caring for our growing chickens. They seem totally happy, which is making us even happier.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2020 at 9:55 am

Kitty Homed

with 4 comments

The result is in. Despite breaking Cyndie’s heart in handing off our little surprise visitor last week, the sweet kitty that peeked in our back door is now happily placed in a new home.

None of our neighbors reported missing a pet and our trusted pet-sitter, Anna, just happened to be looking for a kitty to fulfill the request of a friend. It was a match that fit seamlessly for all parties concerned.

One reply we received from a neighbor gave us pause. She texted, “Is this the first pet you’ve had abandoned on your property?”

We’ve been here eight years now, and this was a first. Her question implies it is something that happens with some regularity in the country. We are happy to have been spared this harsh reality of human behavior thus far.

Our attention is back on fifteen chickens who are busy learning how to deal with the increasingly wintery weather, as well as their own pecking order. We feel lucky to have avoided any real violence from the aggressors, but they do assert their dominance as anticipated. Happily, the young ones are not looking defeated by it in the least. They continue to ever so slowly expand their comfort zone of free-ranging our land.

In this time of the exploding COVID-19 cases, take advantage of the healthy excuse to stay home and hug your pets.

Except for free-ranging chickens. They aren’t so fond of that hugging thing.

Just throw them some scratch or mealworms and they’ll feel truly loved.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

November 1, 2020 at 10:49 am

Peaceful Coexistence

leave a comment »

It is possible that the early arrival of snow cover this October is playing a role in the normalization process of our two groups of chickens. For the most part, they are getting along… separately, together, if that makes any sense. They settle down okay in the coop at night, randomly mixing positions on the two roosts, but during the day, there is no mistaking the obvious distinction of three versus twelve.

Cyndie has cleared a clean path from the coop to the barn and the group of young ones follow on her heels as she heads to fill enough pans of feed to foil the older three who try to lord over that resource.

The hens are coping with the reality of needing to share the coveted space under the overhang of the barn.

The young ones don’t show any need to challenge the hens. Just the opposite. They are quick to retreat at the first approach from any of their elders, but probably just as quick to return in exploration of their ever-expanding horizons.

We are satisfied with the present state of peaceful coexistence and thoroughly enjoying the opportunity to watch things develop before our eyes.

.

.

 

Written by johnwhays

October 25, 2020 at 10:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

Tagged with , , ,

Mixed Seasons

with 2 comments

Delilah doesn’t care that a winter-sized daylong snowstorm blasted into our otherwise reasonable autumnal October weather on Tuesday.

The ground cover is now an interesting mix of snow and leaves. The natural world seems to have lost patience with this thing we call order. What the heck, bring on the snow. We don’t need to wait for the trees to drop all their leaves first.

Delilah loves it. While I trudged with great effort through the deep, wet snow in the woods, she happily raced to sniff one wildlife footprint after another.

I didn’t take Delilah near the chickens during our stroll after I got home from work, so I didn’t see how the birds were coping with their new surroundings, but when Cyndie returned from closing the coop as darkness fell, she reported full merging of young and old on the roosts.

How synchronous! Mixed seasons and mixed flocks of chickens.

Maybe the old birds will share their winter savvy with the young ones.

“If we act like we are stuck and can’t walk anywhere because of the snow, that lady who thinks she’s our mother will shovel a path to the barn.”

She already did.

I’m guessing the young ones have already learned that detail.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 22, 2020 at 6:00 am

Divider Removed

leave a comment »

Over the weekend we took the big step of removing the modifications we put into the coop to subdivide space for the pullets and Rocky. The twelve young ones and three old hens have been sharing the coop for weeks and more recently, have had unrestricted contact while ranging free for multiple days. The two groups didn’t magically become the best of friends, but they appear to be mostly tolerating each other.

We felt like the two groups were doing well enough together that taking the next step of opening the coop was in reach. I’m not sure the chickens all agree.

The first night, we removed the lower barriers but left the net fencing above. All of them showed signs of hesitation over the remodeling as they stepped up to get their first view. They had the whole floor open, so several pullets popped up on the “wrong” side of the net where the three adult hens have been roosting.

There was a bit of bickering as the hens made their opinions known and we decided to assist the young ones in finding their way back around the netting.

In order to avoid that confusion a second night, I removed the last of the barriers and opened the coop completely. There is still a fair amount of squawking and pecking that occurs, but now they all have full range of movement to get away from the aggressors.

Eventually, they settle down and survive the nights unscathed. In the morning, after the doors open, the young ones tend to stay together and the only time the two groups mix is when the hens decide to move in to flaunt their seniority.

We are letting them figure it out for themselves, with only occasional interventions when we lose patience with their shenanigans. I get the impression they will never really become the best of friends, but at a minimum, they will accept there are other chickens sharing their stomping grounds.

This is the first time we have had white chickens and I have noticed from afar that they lack the ability to blend in with their surroundings as well as all the others. I have no idea if that puts them at a higher risk, but if it does, seems like that makes all of them equally imperiled.

Time will tell.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 19, 2020 at 6:00 am

Partial Freedom

with 2 comments

When the time arrived to open the fence for our young pullets and Rocky, allowing them their first taste of free-ranging, we had already changed our mind about how we would do it. Soon after, we also altered our thinking toward making the transition in shorter stages.

Originally, based on reading the experiences of others, our plan was to keep the three adults inside in the morning for longer than normal while we let out the youngsters. We actually did the opposite. For our own convenience, it just worked better to proceed normally in the morning, letting the big girls out as usual and opening the coop door so the young ones could have time inside their fenced run.

After our breakfast and walking Delilah, we could put her back in the house and give the chickens our undivided attention. We opened the fence and with very little excitement, Rocky slowly led his brood a few steps outside the fence where they immediately busied themselves pecking at the green grass blades.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Two of the big hens were in the vicinity and took in the activity with only brief interest. Then they wandered off through the trees. The Buff Orpington was in a nest box laying an egg at the time.

After the pullets made their way to the far side of the outer edge of their fenced courtyard, Cyndie decided to show them the way back to the entrance. Once back inside their familiar stomping grounds, we decided to secure them for the day while we tended to other pursuits.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

In the afternoon, I was walking through the tall grass in the paddocks with Delilah when she suddenly scared up a stray cat that had been hiding a short distance away from the coop. Was that intruder eyeing our birds? Hmmm.

During the morning session, I was multitasking with some day-job remote communications while being physically present for the chickens.

Late in the day, we opened the fence again and gave the chickens our full attention for their second session out. There was only one confrontation in which one of the adults doled out some aggression to establish her dominance over a brazen Light Brahma that dared to stride up with a bit too much confidence.

When opportunity arose that the young ones all found their way back inside their protective fencing again, we took advantage to close them in.

We will transition them to full freedom over a period of days, increasing their autonomy a little each day.

Based on what we’ve witnessed thus far, it doesn’t appear that Rocky the Roo will be much of a protector if predators show up this soon in the process of orienting the new brood to the great outdoors. We will exercise moderate caution for however long we are able to muster the extra attention to the detail.

Ultimately, we acknowledge the risks of free-ranging birds in our environs. It’s a natural contest of the cycle of life.

Meanwhile, we are enjoying them to the fullest. Chickens are wonderfully fun to have around.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2020 at 9:42 am

Looking Ahead

with 2 comments

We have decided to try releasing the eleven pullets and Rocky to free-range our property tomorrow morning. Our plan will be to let them out of the coop before we release the three hens. Then we’ll open the fence around the courtyard that has been their run since we moved them from the brooder two months ago.

After they all figure out their freedom, we will open the back hatch to then let the hens out. We kinda hope the hens will take their usual immediate jaunt to the barn overhang to get fresh food and water and wait to investigate the roaming young ones later. I’m not counting on it, though.

Based on previous experience, I expect the pullets will be so thrilled over access to green grass blades again, they won’t wander far in the early minutes of their newly-granted freedom.

You can see in the accompanying image that they do quite a number on anything growing inside the confines of their fenced area. That was all luscious green grass when we put up the fence two months earlier.

Now it’s a vast wasteland. There isn’t a crawling critter that would dare enter that space.

On Monday, I watched one of the barnevelders try to chase down an Asian beetle that showed up inside the fence. Merciless.

The beetles become overwhelming pests this time of year after the soybean fields get cut. They are incredibly successful at breaching any and all seams around our doors and windows intended to keep bugs out. We can’t vacuum them up fast enough. I wish the geniuses who devised using these insects to control aphids would have also figured out something to occupy the spotted orang half-rounds after the crops are harvested.

I saw or heard at some point that in this phase of the beetle’s life they are on a quest to find water. Nothing is frozen solid yet, so why do they instantly all want to get into the house? We’ve got a perfectly good landscape pond beside the deck. Drink from there. Geez.

Maybe the chickens lose interest after tasting just one beetle and that’s why so many survive to reach our dwelling. Otherwise, I expect our feathered pest controlling omnivores would neutralize the threat of beetles as well as they do all the flies and ticks in the vicinity.

.

.

Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2020 at 6:00 am