Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘raising chickens

Feeling Wintery

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We did not get much of a chance to ease our way into winter this month. This morning’s single-digit low temperature is the second time already in November that we have faced such surprisingly cold air. The average high and low for this area in November is 40°/25°(F).

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My favorite weather blog is predicting a brown Thanksgiving next week, so we are looking forward to a return to more normal high temperatures in the days ahead, to melt away the remnants of last week’s snowfall.

The horses have been quick to develop their thicker winter coats and appear to be adapting to the cold without difficulty. Delilah loves the snow and romps with visible excitement, frequently burying her snout in the powder and coming up with a wonderfully frosty nose.

The chickens are already over most of their apprehension about walking in the snow, so we aren’t too concerned about them. I noticed recently that the size of one roost (there are actually two) seems to best accommodate 8 hens, based on how our current brood situate themselves.

Unfortunately, we currently have 9 birds.

Last one in tends to set off a chain reaction of chickens wrangling for position, with one dropping down when a 9th barges in line. Occasionally, a Wyandotte will choose to hurdle them all and perch against the wall on a stud above the window.

Last winter, we only had three hens and they didn’t have any problem fitting. You’d think they would split up and use both roosts, but I haven’t seen that yet.

For the first time in the two years we’ve had chickens, we think we may have a sick hen. Her change in behavior started about the same time the snow arrived, so it wasn’t clear at first that there was any issue beyond not wanting to walk in the snow. Now that the other eight have returned to normal behavior, the malaise of the ninth has become more conspicuous.

She doesn’t want to leave the coop. It is hard to track her eating and drinking, so we are not sure if this is a serious illness or something minor that will resolve itself over time. We’ll start observing her with increased scrutiny to see if we learn anything more.

We have been so intent on tracking the potential predators that threaten the hens, it would be a shame to instead lose one to illness. We hope to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

Two Frights

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Today’s title isn’t about politics, either. I successfully ignored all media broadcasts of election result(s) play-by-play yesterday, much to my delight. I voted early, so that task wasn’t a part of my yesterday and I was able to remain in the bliss of ignorance as to the eventual outcomes.

However, that didn’t mean my evening was without drama. I experienced two different momentary frights, both of which resolved positively after the shortest bits of distress, I’m happy to report.

The first fright occurred when I couldn’t find a much-favored loaf of brown bread I had just taken out of the freezer on Sunday. I could see that our college crew, who are providing morning support while Cyndie is out-of-town, had made breakfast during their shift.

They didn’t eat it all, did they? Couldn’t have.

Did they put it in the refrigerator? Nope.

Did they take it with them?! Well, the question occurred to me.

Oh, there it was, in the drawer below our usual placement.

Panic averted.

What? I really like brown bread.

With the return to Standard Time this week, darkness arrived while I was just finishing up tending the horses. This provided an opportunity to take care of the task of closing up the chicken coop for the night, as well. That meant I would make one less trip out into the soaking wet, very cold, and uncomfortably windy weather that is our reality this week.

By the time I reached the coop, chickens were already inside. I slid the small back door closed and walked around to the front door to peek in on them for a head count.

1, 2, 3, 456… 7, 8.

I looked again, squinting as if that would help see better in the encroaching darkness. Eight. I could easily discern the three yellow Buff Orpingtons. The difference between the black Australorps and the Golden Laced Wyandottes was a lot harder to make out.

It was a Wyandotte that was missing. It figures. They are often turning up as the odd hen out.

I had one more place to check. Opening the side doors to the nesting boxes relieved my fright. She was just keeping an egg warm, that’s all.

Or, she was thinking about spending the night there. Not allowed!

I slid a hand beneath her to feel for an egg. That was all it took for her to decide she was ready to hop up on the roost with the rest of her brood.

That egg was a lot warmer than the two I gathered from other boxes at the same time.

Nothing to be frightened about here. Carry on.

Good luck with governing to all the candidates who received the majority of votes yesterday! Feel free to use your new responsibilities to make the world a better place for all.

At the very least, let’s hope they find a way to give us less to be frightened about than what has become usual fare from the halls of power in this U.S. of A.

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Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2018 at 7:00 am

New Prowler

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Cyndie and I understand that we are rarely alone on our evening outings to walk the dog, even though most nocturnal visitors go undetected. It’s usually apparent when Delilah recognizes we have company, if she picks up a fresh scent and strains against the leash with startling urgency, but even she fails to notice sometimes.

I always wonder what might be just out of the reach of my headlamp. Occasionally, the sudden rustling of branches startles me when it is a deer that finally decides it’s time to bolt away from the too interested dog making lunges in their general direction.

Last night, Cyndie didn’t get out to shut the chicken coop until it was pretty dark outside. As she and Delilah arrived near the coop, Cyndie heard a rustling that alerted her to make a hasty approach. She hooked Delilah’s leash to the paddock fence and rushed to close the chicken door.

The scuffling sound moved from the leaves on the ground to the branches of a small tree just two steps from the coop.

Hello there, opossum. What brings you to our free-range chicken’s neighborhood?

We’re thinking we might not want to wait so long to get the coop secured for the night any more.

I wonder if the raccoons, skunks, barn cats, fox, neighbor dogs, and now, opossums around here are all friendly with each other, or if they actually avoid interacting somehow in their frequent evening forays through our territory.

It’s been like Grand Central Station lately with the visiting critters. Maybe they have booked tickets on different successive days.

At bedtime Sunday night, there were two beady masked eyes peering in our bedroom door from 4-inches off the deck. I think the snoop was hoping to get another glimpse of Pequenita. The cat was ferociously trying to scare off a curious raccoon a while back, but instead of fear, that evening the visitor looked rather smitten.

Cyndie said she decided to avoid further interaction with last night’s opossum. With the horses all bunched nearby in the corner of the paddock to see what all the fuss was about, and Delilah tied nearby, Cyndie didn’t know how the tree rat would react if she challenged it.

Might have just “played possum,” but she decided not to tempt a more chaotic result.

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Written by johnwhays

October 16, 2018 at 6:00 am

Another Example

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We’ve still got ten chickens, and they are still slowly mastering the natural art of laying eggs. It has been a common occurrence lately to have an “unshelled” egg dropped on the poop board beneath the roost.

Eventually, the shell develops, and when that first success is finally achieved, it’s relatively easy to spot.

We are not always sure which hen laid which egg, but in the days following the appearance of a small egg, the subsequent daily average number we find notches up by one.

The image above was taken by Cyndie yesterday.

How many eggs will we find today?

I’m voting for seven, even knowing that the average number of eggs our hens lay is six per week. Today could be the arbitrary day one of the already laying hens decides to take her day off.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2018 at 6:00 am

Still Ten

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Just in case you were wondering, our flock of bug eating machines still numbers ten. When they are not eating bugs, it is because Cyndie has put out kitchen scraps for them. We knew they were very fond of watermelon and have discovered they tend to ignore honeydew.

Maybe they’d go after it if we put a little red food coloring on the rinds.

Tuesday night, Cyndie took out a bowl of peach peels that were left over from a fantastic looking pie she made. The chickens devoured them in a blink.

Apparently they like peach peels.

We are now averaging 4 eggs a day from the ten birds. Obviously, the hens are maturing at different rates. They were all born on the same day and have been together ever since, sharing living quarters and eating the same things.

Nature or nurture?

The other day, Jackie provided a cute picture she took of Dezirea eyeing one of the black australorps standing on the hay box.

I guess you could say the chicken is eyeing Dezirea right back.

I keep expecting to lose the golden laced wyandottes next because of their tendency to straggle behind the group. Last week when I was working in the shop garage, I noticed the birds coming to investigate my activity.

Counted nine of them. Lately, during the day, the hope is that the missing hen is back in the coop laying an egg.

The next time I looked up from my task, the chickens were gone. Oh, but then that missing wyandotte came sprinting from under the brush, racing to find and catch up with the rest of the group.

If I were a predator, that laggard would make for an enticing target.

So far, come time for bed check (roost check, actually), Cyndie has found all ten of the current bunch are making it back to the coop for the night.

What ever happens, we are already ahead of last year in both longevity and egg production.

We are counting our ten blessings every day.

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Written by johnwhays

August 30, 2018 at 6:00 am

Aw Heck

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Two chickens missing at bed check last night. No evidence visible in the low light of evening to account for their absence.

We knew this was likely to occur eventually, but, of course, that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Cyndie’s audit identified the missing birds as a buff orpington and a golden laced wyandotte.

A survey for any sign of feathers dropped will commence after daylight this morning.

It’s enough to make you shake your head, going bonkers…

Hunter knows how to do it. That’s his cow face.

I think he was shaking off flies when I happened to snap that photo.

Those pesky flies love the eyes.

I bet the horses know what happened to the two missing chickens. I haven’t mastered the level of communication with them that would enable me to hear their version of the story.

Well after dark last night, I thought I might have heard coyotes in the distance. Maybe it was just my mind’s effort to provide an explanation for the unknown. Coyotes would seem a logical possibility, although, a certain fox would be an even more plausible alternative.

There was no memory card in the trail cam at the time, so the culprit(s) will probably remain unidentified.

For the immediate future, the plan for the 10 chickens still with us is to confine them to their coop. There’s no reason to believe this will solve anything, but it just feels better to take some kind of action against an unknown foe.

Maybe this will spur the hens on to make full use of those fabulous nest boxes in there. We’ve still only found 4 of the small eggs associated with the start of their laying career. That leaves six who have yet to reach this milestone of maturity.

We are even more vested now in hoping the rest will live long enough to get there.

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Written by johnwhays

August 8, 2018 at 6:00 am

Who’s Friendliest?

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It’s no contest. When the chickens hear us out and about, they come running. Lately, a pattern has developed in which one of our three breeds is demonstrating an unmistakable preference to socialize.

Our black australorps are the first to approach and then will linger and visit socially, far longer than the rest of the flock.

Cyndie brought out some food scraps from dinner last night, which eventually attracted all the buffs and wyandottes to join in the fun.

On Wednesday night, Cyndie came in from a walk with Delilah and was completely out of breath. She described a scene that sounded totally hilarious.

Since we have little trust about Delilah being near the chickens, we practice a lot more avoidance than we do spending time trying to teach her to respect them.

When the chickens heard Cyndie and Delilah walking by, the birds emerged from the woods and started running after them. Cyndie hoped they would notice the dog and maybe back off a little bit, but they kept coming. So, she prompted Delilah to pick up the pace a bit and chose a path straight for the house.

The chickens kept coming. Soon, Cyndie and Delilah were running for the door, being chased by the flock of twelve chickens.

Led, of course, by the friendliest four.

What fun they add to our days!

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