Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘pullets

Perfect Execution

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After feeding horses and before heading in for our dinner last night, we spent a little time mingling with the chickens as they foraged the shaded grass between their coop and the barn. Cyndie brought out some chicken treats and worked an exercise of calling for them to come to her as she offers to feed them from her hand.

They haven’t received as much of this training as earlier batches we have raised, and it shows. The reactions were delayed and there was a noticeable lack of total buy-in from the group as a whole. With a bit more practice, it won’t be long until Cyndie frequently finds herself with a trail of birds following behind her as she strolls anywhere near where they happen to be hanging out.

While we were lounging in their presence, practicing trying to account for them by breed as a method of quickly identifying if anyone is missing, we enjoyed the thrill of witnessing a perfectly executed emergency response drill.

Maybe it wasn’t even a drill, but we weren’t able to scope out a possible threat they sensed.

At the sound of one unique call, without hesitation, the twenty-some mix of pullets and cockerels made a mass exodus from the open mowed grass into the thick cover of growth just to the right in the image below.

One second they were all roaming around in the open and in a flash they became instantly invisible.

It is a fascinating thing to watch. We wondered which one made the call, as it wasn’t obvious to us, but whatever was said, it made an immediate impression on all of them.

Probably half a minute later, one bold girl wandered out to reclaim the spot she previously held, and soon after the rest did the same as if nothing had happened.

It all echoed nicely the practice we’ve witnessed many times with horses where they execute an alarming rush to escape the immediate vicinity and a minute later go back to grazing as calmly as ever.

I’m happy our chickens are demonstrating this skill so well, given they are going to need it for the balance of their free-ranging days with us.

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Written by johnwhays

July 13, 2021 at 6:00 am

Guessing Game

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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.

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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.

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2021 at 6:00 am

Happy Animals

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Our kitty, Pequenita, was oh so happy to have me back home again to scratch her neck and belly every which way to and fro. We arrived home mid-afternoon and took Delilah for a walk to survey our property and check on the chicks and horses.

The grasses on either side of our mowed trails have gotten almost as tall as we are. The chicks have gotten almost as tall as each other. There is one exception. One of the Buffalo gals is taller than all the others. We are growing increasingly confident that we received a surprise cockerel in the batch Cyndie purchased from the Buffalo Country Store.

It appears we may have a Buffalo “guy.” In the image above, the obvious contrast in color can be seen for two of the Barred Rock chicks we received. The darker coloring is indicative of hens and the lighter white-with-black feathering more an attribute of roosters. The more advanced growth of his comb and the noticeable size advantage add logical evidence to support our suspicion.

We may keep him to protect his brood of 11 siblings and then let one of the Rockette roosters stay around to watch over whatever hens remain from our hatched group after distributing some to my brother and giving away any extra roosters. We have yet to feel confident identifying how many cockerels are in that hatched batch of thirteen.

I expect that another two or three weeks will make things much more obvious, along the lines of how obvious it has become among the two-week-older batch from Buffalo.

Thankfully, at this point, they are all getting along fine and appear happy and healthy. The Rockettes have enough feathers now and have grown enough in size that we are hoping to experiment with merging the two groups this week. That should be entertaining.

The horses were perfectly calm and appeared entirely satisfied with our return appearance. Last week they received a long-awaited hoof trimming and it has them looking particularly well kept.

Our animals seem almost as happy as Cyndie was when she finally was in the right place at the right time to view the resident snapping turtle that has frequented the lagoon and boat launch area of the lake up in Hayward for probably the last 50 years.

I snapped that photo of the lagoon because the reflection of the tree trunks was providing a wonderful backward K that was particularly eye-catching. Cyndie said that sighting the turtle had been on her bucket list for quite some time, which made it a significant thrill for her that endured well beyond the minutes the old beast lingered in view.

All in all, we’ve got happiness bursting out all over the place.

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Written by johnwhays

June 28, 2021 at 6:00 am

Happy Chickens

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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.

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2020 at 9:55 am

Partial Freedom

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Written by johnwhays

October 10, 2020 at 9:42 am

Gender Reveal

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We are two months into our third year of buying chicks online and having them shipped through the mail. This year is the first time we have had reason to question the gender of one of the birds. Each day the evidence mounts, pointing to a probability that one of our two New Hampshire chicks is a cockerel instead of a pullet.

Do you see any signs of a difference between these two?

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The second one’s face is a little out of focus, but you can still get a general sense of the difference in the wattle and comb and detect the wider chest of the young dude on the left.

Cyndie thinks she heard an early practice crow last week that sounded like a “honk” before our rooster suspicions began to really gel. It was such an uncharacteristic weird sound, she had no idea who made it until we started looking into the possibility we might have a rooster. Cyndie then found some recordings online that matched what she’d heard near our coop.

Looking back, a behavior Cyndie witnessed one night when she got to the coop before they were all inside can be seen in a whole new light. When a Light Brahma and a Dominique straggled behind outside after all the others were in, the big New Hampshire suddenly ran down the ramp and grabbed the Brahma by the back of the neck, pushed her head into the ground, and held it there for a bit.

Then the New Hampshire let go and walked back up the ramp and inside. The other two followed soon after. Cyndie was shocked by the scene and I remember her describing it as seeming like the New Hampshire went out and ordered the other two to come inside. We thought it was just one of the hens being “bossy.”

Based on what we are coming to terms with now, that behavior would be totally in line with the way a rooster would treat the hens.

So, I guess we’ve finally had the question answered for us as to whether we should get a rooster to protect the hens, or not.

All that’s left now is to see if we can guide this cockerel toward behaving kindly with humans and ferociously toward predators when the rooster hormones fully kick in next year.

Cock-a-doodle-doooo!

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Pullets Aplenty

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We were only away for two days, but upon our return, it was hard to find any signs remaining in our latest brood of chicks that identifies them as chicks anymore. They are reasonably qualified as pullets now, up until they become actual egg-laying hens. After checking on Pequenita and walking Delilah, and then saying hello to the three adult hens, we climbed into the netted front yard of the coop to commune with the young ones.

Last week, Cyndie constructed an added wing to the enclosure, cutting the old net to create an opening to the added space on fresh grass. That area encompassed an old wooden spool to which the girls all took a quick liking.

A cluster of them gathered up there to preen feathers together after the treats ran out that we had been offering up from the palms of our hands.

One of the friendly Dominiques hopped up to perch on my arm. I’m not sure if she was simply showing off about how comfortable she is with us or if she was specifically intending to lay claim on me and garner something of higher ranking over all the others as a result.

I was more than happy to oblige.

Alas, that only resulted in one of the New Hampshires one-upping the competition to show who’s boss by climbing on Cyndie’s back.

Those legs look like drumsticks. Next thing you know, that young one just might surprise us with practice crowing one of these days. None of the other two-month-olds are anywhere close to matching the pace of development of that one.

The other New Hampshire doesn’t have near the comb or wattle growth yet. However, she does have pretty good balance and wing action going for her.

The feather-footed Light Brahma appears to be doing a bit of a shuffle beneath her, doesn’t she? Look at those dance moves, cha-cha-cha.

There was plenty of action inside the fencing with our dozen pullets yesterday afternoon.

It was a pleasing “welcome home” to rural life once again.

Thankfully, no masks required.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2020 at 6:00 am

Maturing Wonderfully

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The chicks have grown into pullets as they enter their seventh week and have completely mastered a routine of roosting in the coop overnight and romping in the fenced front yard all day long.

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Over the weekend, I found myself drawn to wander down to visit them on two separate occasions to just lay outside the fence and hang out. They have already devoured all the greenery that previously existed inside the fence so I’ve become a source of treats, dropping blades of fresh green grass inside for them.

When they pick up a blade, it often sets off a frenzy of thievery as nearby chicks move in with attempts to steal it away for their own.

By supplying these snacks I appear to be cementing my reputation as a friend-not-foe because they already come running excitedly when I announce my arrival with my best falsetto-voiced chicken greetings.

They are doing so well thus far we are wishing we could just skip ahead to merging with the adults and letting them free-range right now. Luckily, the adults made a few threatening gestures yesterday along the fence line to help me see the value of waiting until they are much closer in size.

It is good to see they are growing in familiarity with the antics of the twelve new chicks. That’s the whole point of the netting, giving them a chance to see, smell, and hear each other, but with a barrier for protection from aggression.

What’s not to love? I think they will get along famously when the time comes. The four new breeds are just so adorable!

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Written by johnwhays

August 31, 2020 at 6:00 am

Successful Relocation

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The chicks are in the coop!

Among the changes the chicks are dealing with, a bedding of sand instead of woodchips appeared to be the primary focus of their initial impressions.

It didn’t take them long to push the envelope of their abilities in exploring the new levels available. It was cute to watch them consider a leap multiple times before actually launching from one perch to another.

It got chilly last night and exposed the youngsters to cooler temperatures than they were used to in the brooder. Cyndie ended up lowering the heat lamp a little to ease their adjustment to this new world.

When we went down to close the chicken door, it was sweet to hear the three adult hens soothingly cooing while calmly perched on their side of the roost. They appeared unconcerned about the twelve new coop-mates that suddenly appeared during the day.

The chicks seemed just fine with the situation, as well.

The newbies will spend a week or so confined to quarters to establish the coop space as their current and future home before being granted brief, but expanding outings in the fenced front yard we will be installing today.

All these steps are designed to keep them safe while they are maturing toward a time when they will be merged with the adult hens and granted the full rights of free-ranging the property to the delight of us all.

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Written by johnwhays

August 16, 2020 at 9:42 am