The return of winter

Winter was back for a few days.  The wild birds descended in clouds for something to eat, including a few new birds.

There was a purple finch.  This is sad because it’s the first purple finch sighting of the year, when normally there would be many of them all winter.Here’s a sad robin. I don’t eat seeds.  

Now that the rain has come and washed away the snow, she’s eating well, if she survived her three day fast.

There was a red-breasted nuthatch, tiny and adorable in a little badger mask.  I’d never seen one before.

And then in swooped a small hawk, who perched on the pile of sticks, right in the middle of everything.Instant ghost town.

It’s a tough life being  a hawk.  You show up to hang out and everyone leaves.

She patiently sat around.  I took pictures, looked her up in the bird book. A juvenile sharp-shinned hawk, I think (feeds on song birds).  So small.  She stayed.  No one else moved.On the small bird feeder, one chickadee stayed motionless, locked on the raptor.  Many minutes passed.On her usual perch, the squirrel was also stock still, staring at the little hawk.

Finally, she swooped away, and the raucous bird shouting and activity resumed.  The chickadees recovered first.

I’ve been using the “roofs” of the beehives as bird tables, for the wild birds that would rather eat on the ground.  The chickens come moseying along and frustrate them, so they’re happy to use the tables. They’re learning to share.

Chicken play date

Cheeks has been having chaperoned outings.  I carry her out with me and set her down near where I’m working, in the field or the garden, and she moseys around, scratching and eating.

She loves it.  What I expected, was that after a couple of hours, she’d be tired, and willing and ready to be scooped up and carried home for a drink.  I’ve handled her daily for months.  She’s as tame as a chicken could possibly be.No.  Oh, no no no.  No!  Not yet!   Try to grab her and she hits the gas.  Can’t catch me! I’m a wild animal!  She can lead me on a proper merry chase, even with her lame foot.  When you do catch her though, she’s totally fine with being picked up.  The thrill is in the chase.I only look placid.

Today she got a supervised date. (A very brief date).  Speed date, even.  The rooster saw her from a distance, and barreled towards her, and saved his dancing for the afterglow.

She’s been looking forward to a date, based on how loud she shouts through the window when the roosters come to the yard.  And she didn’t make him chase.  Now all her gorgeous eggs won’t go to waste, and I’ll get some little Cheekslings.She also got some time with Perchick, which was adorable.  They spent nearly an hour together.  Perchick and Cheeks are the same age, possibly nestmates,and they behaved exactly like they recognized each other and fell in step like old times.   

Rain day

What a day.  Buckets of water coming down, starting out with slush on the ground, and wind, blowing the cold rain into your face and coat.  All the chickens opted to stay in the greenhouse most of the day, only making brief forays out when the rain abated.

The guineas took one step out in the morning before jumping back in, the chickens got several steps out before pulling their necks back, wheeling around and running back in.  It’s gross out there!

I found it the perfect day for a nap, and that was glorious.  Never enough sleep!

All growth does not take place in sunlight

The best pillow.

I had an epic sewing day, catching up possibly as much as two years of mending and hemming, which put a lot of clothes back into my wearable circulation.

I also made this wonderful piece of embroidery into a pillow (case? sham? cover?  cover.)  — pillow cover, complete with buttons to get it off the pillow for washing, done with the buttonholer!!

 

I went to the library and came home with a chicken

I went to the library bus and while I was in the parking lot, the manager of the liquor store popped outside and waved me down, asking me to come in the store before I left.  What in the world, I wondered, could I be required in the liquor store for?  Who knows, though, really.  It’s a small town.

Well.  It turned out to be about a chicken.  There was a hen that had appeared some days ago and was living in the snow bank and brambles behind the liquor store.  They were feeding and watering her, and she was spending nights 10′ up in a tree.  (This was 3 weeks ago, when there was lots of snow and -15C nights).

Would I bring this chicken to a good home?  First, we had to catch her.  She was nervous and quick, and with the help of passersby herding, blocking, and diving in the snow after her, I caught her, and immediately stuffed her and her cold feet into my coat and zipped her in. (Chickens always love the coat treatment.  Dark and warm – they calm right down(.

Yay, the chicken was rescued, and I was bringing a new girl home.  I had one more stop to make.

I stopped in at the assisted living home, going inside with the chicken hidden in my coat, and just as I was turning to leave, the amusing novelty of being out in public with a concealed carry chicken got the best of me and I turned back, “Hey, you should see what I’ve got in my coat, haha!”  I unzipped enough for her head to pop out, and they squealed, and gasped, “Oh, would you mind showing some of the residents?!”

Thus began a room to room progress of coat chicken show and tell, most of the sick and elderly residents petting her and grinning with delight.  She was a gracious celebrity, quiet, mild, tolerant, poking her head out and “holding hands”.She’s drifting south in my jacket.  Notice  her little foot out gripping my hand.

After a much bigger day than most chickens have before noon, we got home.  I put her in a chickery for isolation and acclimation.Immediately all the old chickens crowded around to inspect.

I put her in the coop at night, then back in the chickery for the day, then a few part days loose.  She had a hard time at first so I’d put her back in her box for a break and a meal.  It’s hard to find one’s place in a big flock.  She’s small, a bantam something, the same size as a few teens, Very quick, high-stepping, nervy.

She’s integrated now!  She rolls with clique #1, the pufflings and the top rooster – a surprise.  She still hops into the open chickery, often in the morning, nostalgic-like.  I used to stay in here. 

 

 

Flyday

T.G.I. Flyday here today.  All my hives are alive, and many, many bees were out flying today in the warmth.

I got to feed them, and replace some straw in the top of their hives; I was happy to find that the wet mouldy straw was only around the top and outside edge – where it was nearest the roof and corners.  Nested around the bottle of syrup and the opening in the center the straw was dry and golden, bees dry.Bees were everywhere, all over the paths, in the chicken bucket, and all over.

The guineas were unperturbed, scritching around right in the middle of the hive while the bees were thick in the air.  They don’t care.  This is the first time we’ve had guineas that come and hang out at the house (thanks to Galahad raising them), which is great, because this is where they need to do their tick-eating thing.  That’s what I hired them for. 

Guinea was here

The snow is almost all gone now, but when it was still here, it didn’t stop the guineas.

They tramped up and down and all around, and made a fantastic constellation of footprints.  They were so pleased to be out, they put up with a little cold feet.

Who says we’re jungle birds?  We’re Canada birds now.I found them at the end of their footprints!

Out on the range.

The birds are all out free-ranging again.  They’re so excited!! Mostly out. They are free to come and go, for the last week or two since the snow has been going.

They are so happy!  All the young ones (1-2 yrs) and the guineas spend all day out, pouring out of the greenhouse when I open the doors, popping back in when they get cold or thirsty, then back out for another shift of foraging.

Inside, the older chickens are less adventurous and content to have the dust baths to themselves.  I can’t wait to move out the Silkies, but it will be cold for another week or so.

Friends

These two were out and about alone, one cold day, without a rooster escort, and were all jumpy and guilty, like they knew they were on the lam.

The birds outside are partly PARTY! Excitement and adventure!   And partly attacking their days like they have a job, and they’re showing up to it late.  Serious.  So much to do!There’s something really good over there! They’re vigorously scritching around in the woods everywhere.  Now that they have the space, I can see the little cliques that have formed around each rooster.  Three good ones.

Happy about living naturally