New hen boxes

The hens with chicks got an apartment reno.  It was time to retire those battered old boxes.  So I set up a new condo system, each with a little bed of hay.  But will they use them?All the other chickens came and inspected of course. Well, I left the most popular box, double occupancy in a pinch.Oh!  A promising amount of attention.Look Mom, we found a new place!They approved.  2/3 were occupied, and it was much nicer to transport these boxes with closed lids.

Chocolate and the white chocolates started out in a new box, but ended up in the old box.One of Foxy’s chicks (the biggest set) is cute, with the little neck beard,and dark brown cape.  I’m pretty sure he’s a little rooster, with those big thick legs. He looks like a small turkey.

Mr Tomato Head

Look at that tomato.  Eggs (normal and Silkie) are there for size context.  It’s very large.  A Persimmon.  They are so good.  The surprise of the year.  I was expecting a normal-large tomato, not one tomato the size of a loaf of bread!  Meaty, and delicious.  When the hens get a bucket of scraps, they pick out the orange persimmon bits first.

In the tomato fermenting pots, the process is rolling right along.  Look at that scum of mold – perfect.Outside, the morning glories have come, vining up with the volunteer tomatoes.  It seems late, but they objected to the early spring when I planted them.  The rest of the garden is turning senescent and ugly, but the morning glories are beautiful in the mess.

Epic pig move

The pigs got another big move yesterday.  And they’re acting like they did all the work.  The space they have with the two strands of fence is vast (not literally, but it seems pretty vast, and it’s plenty big enough for them to get totally concealed).  I walk around looking for them and it’s like Wild Safari.  Can you see them?  Is that something moving over there?Well, there’s a spot where pigs have been.I’m not moving.  Maybe my eyelid. One lazy pig.Spot the pig?  The other two are in there.

The five aren’t afraid of bees

The famous five in fact, love to rummage around around the hives, and jump up on them.That is the back of the hive, but they rummage equally well in the front.   They go underneath.  I’ve seen one jump up on the bee door closure stick.Meeting behind Pansy building!  (My hives are plumb; the camera is tipped)

I’ve thought one would get stung, and that would be over, but no.  It’s always just little tribe.  They have the place to themselves.

Overcrowding

I went out at bedtime to close everyone up, which means picking up the cardboard boxes that the wild chicks and the moms they’re still attached to have retired into, and carrying them into the safe box in the greenhouse for the night.  There’s a lineup of three boxes.

One was empty.

Oh, great.  Foxy and her set have found someplace to sleep outside.  I put the other two boxes away, did a quick low crawl to look around the base of the brush piles where they like to rest (wow, they’ve got a proper labyrinth in there), and went for a flashlight and headlamp to mount a search.  On the way back, I thought I’d better double check the box contents to make sure I knew exactly who I was looking for.

Foxy and Feisty and their seven chicks between them were all jammed into one box!  The smallest box.  That box does seem to be preferred.  I could just imagine the growling. Yeah, well I want this box too.  I called dibs.  I’m not leaving.  Fine!  I’m not leaving either.

As long as they’re happy.   In their 140 square inches of real estate.  Mental note:  they will not be happy in the morning – must not delay letting them out.

They weren’t:  Nine birds in a 10x 14 box , what were they thinking?Ursa has a mom-hopper.  Ursa’s got attitude. First the yellow one.Then the black ones – corner warming.

An experiment in chick freedom

Ursa Minor was protesting the confines of the chickery, so I tried something.  I let all the moms and chicks loose.  This is not rain day, these are the tiny chicks in their first few days of life, that are typically in chickeries in the greenhouse (warm and dry), before they go out to chickeries on grass for a few days, before they run wild with their moms (a staged transition to free-range).So I propped up the chickeries so they could leave, but still get back in their familiar box.  Clever stayed in for hours. Ursa shot out and within a minute, was demonstrating hole digging in the tomatoes. Hers are the smallest chicks too.  The others have an edge by a couple days or at least some hours.  But she’s a real go-getter.No time to lose!  I’ve done this before.  Can’t waste a minute with early chickhood education!Thinking about it. Domino’s thinking harder about it.     Oh!  Big moves!  This is the cost of chickens on the loose.  The danger to low hanging fruit.  It’s negligible.I think I see a tomato right now.

Pig bribery

I’ve got some rowdy pigs.  Specifically, the female.  She’s a bit of a loner, happy to be apart from the boys some of the time, and she doesn’t respect the fence.  She knows how to get under it, rooting under a post (the bottom strand isn’t electrified), and then tossing it up, where it will flop down on her back and she can charge underneath, getting only a modest shock on her thick back.  I haven’t seen her do this all the way through, but I’ve seen her start into the process very deliberately .   I’ve had it.  I’m out of here (I thwarted her) This all started with a mass escape incident, and watching that happen, I knew they’d be ruined on the fence.  I am counting myself very lucky that it only ruined her on the fence.

Using an electric fence on pigs is a delicate agreement.  They agree they will act like they fear the fence, and you agree to believe it will keep them in, when both of you (I think) knows that if they really want, they can go through it.  If this pretence breaks down, then the pigs are “what fence?”, and you can never relax again.  But the electric fence enables them to have a completely different life than they would if you had to build “pig tight” to keep them in, so it’s a good deal for them.  They get a big sward to root and play and run in, and resemble real pigs.

But now, I have a problem pig, and every so often, she goes on walkabout.  She doesn’t go far.  She just goes and knocks over all the chicken waters and licks their trays clean (the chickens alert me to the invasion).  Then I have to pretend to be friendly Aren’t you clever, let’s get a treat (and she runs after me all pleased with herself), when I feel like beating her with a rope.  She’s pretty good about going back in.  See, the good boys who stayed inside the fence are getting a treat, don’t you wish you were in here now?

Hence, bribery.  I’ve taken to surprise feeds of a bucket of apples and garden scraps, to minimize monotonous downtime that could raise exploratory ideas.  Of course, religious punctuality with regular feed time is essential to prevent mutiny.I appear off-schedule (they are surprised, and come rocketing in!)They try to body block to keep choice to themselves. The apples go first, even sour green apples.  Crunch crunch.Four days so far, no escapes.

Chick party in the greenhouse

Rain day!

It did not start well.  The forecast, usually accurate to the hour, was predicting rain starting at 9pm tonight.  At 6am, pat. pat pat. patpatpatpatpat! 

I leapt up.  I needed to give the pigs access to their house.  Yesterday I’d moved their house (thank god!), but I hadn’t cut out the path to reroute the electric fence around it.  Really crappy work that I planned to do today before the rain (plenty of time!), as I was so tired and sore yesterday.  Instead, in the dark before dawn, in the rain, while the pigs watched me impatiently, grunting.  Hey.  It’s raining.  ME:  You’re waterproof, you tyrants.

I got the brush cut out, and the fence patched around it, and they grunted right in.  They just prefer to be in their house in the rain.   I checked the forecast.  It had changed, imagine that.  Yes, it is indeed raining right now.  And it’s now predicted to rain all day.  That means the pigs will spend all day in their house.

Amazingly, I enticed Galahad to go back into the greenhouse.  I figured he’d prefer that, but didn’t think it would work.  I’ve never asked him to go back into the greenhouse during the day.   And I released all the moms and their chicks inside the greenhouse! That’s Foxy, Fiesty, and  Chocolate at large, plus Ursa, Clever and (unnamed) in their chickeries.The chicks wouldn’t have any problems in the rain, but it would be hard on the hens, as soon as the chicks try to use Mom for an umbrella.  Silkies aren’t even water resistant.They were over the moon!  This was the most exciting thing ever, apparently.  Galahad etc weren’t too demonstrative, but content to be inside.  We live here, what’s the big deal?  The chicks and moms acted like they just got heli-dropped into Disneyland.  The cheeping!  The clucking!  The scampering! Oh the places you’ll scratch!  Oh the things you’ll peck!An hour later and they were still centralized on just the first fraction of the greenhouse.

It turned out to be a grey day more than a rain day, and I let Galahad out again for most of the day.  It started coming down again early evening.   The chicks were all late going to bed:)  Best day ever!

cool days, cool Moms

It’s chilly in the mornings.  The chicks are around with their shoulders shrugged up.  The leghorn twins went back in the box.  The cardboard is warmer on the tiny naked feet.

You know what’s really warm on the feet?  Mom. Until she starts walking away – whoa!

Ursa Minor surprised me with chicks this morning.  She had that I’ve got chicks, ya know face.  And then there was all the peeping.Oh!  there’s a little leg, and it’s attached to some black feathers!  Yay, another black one.  Oh, there’s a a whole little butt, already dry and fluffy.

Ursa’s so chill.  She’s all confident.  This is my second brood, you know.  I’m kind of a pro at this. (She is).And there’s a whole chick popped out.  I didn’t disturb them much in the cold morning, but in the afternoon she was trying to start their education in the dark cave of the broodery, so – into the chickery with them.  There are two black ones, and two “spider” marked – that’s how Brown Silkies look when they hatch.  But… I can’t remember if she was on Silkie eggs or full size?  Those chicks look pretty big.  So they might be crosses.  Who knows!  It’s all exciting.

Cream Puff slid into the greenhouse with Galahad last night, and I was chasing her around with a rake, which G was surprisingly unconcerned about.    She knew she wasn’t supposed to be in there, and Galahad knew  that he was.  It didn’t take her long to figure out that she should stick right next to him to not fear the rake, which she did, like glue.  Smart move.  I chased them both out, and she ran squawking back to her boyfriend, while Galahad made a lap of the hen tent and glided back in before she’d hardly turned the corner.   Very smooth.  The keets mostly ignored all of this.

Tonight I comprehended another maneuver of his.  I’ve seen it before and thought he was just being fussy: I come to open the door to admit the keet family to the GH (Galahad periscoping, doesn’t miss anything).  I step back.  G runs up, jumps onto the doorstep looking into the GH.  Keets gather.  I lean or step forward, ready to shut the door behind them as soon as they all…. but no!  He doesn’t  jump in.  Nope. He pops back out, makes a wide meandering lap, though rather fast and urgently, like he’s frustrated, pauses somewhere (today it was under the hen tent), then rushes out and deliberately charges into the GH.  I have been frustrated with this extra phase of bedtime procedures.  Just go to bed!  It’s the same greenhouse it was last night, just go in!

That’s not it though.

I figured it out tonight.  He’s collecting all the keets!  They don’t flow everywhere together like a school of fish, like they used to, these days as they mature and get more independent.  Some are lingering at the grub box, the feed dishes, the water fount.  First he confirms the door is open, and then he does his lap to get their attention.  They snap to and fall in.  Then he pauses for muster – all present?  Then they storm the castle.

He’s the best guinea mom I’ve ever had.  He does everything almost completely silently.  Amazing.  And I hardly see them all day, but they know when mealtime and bedtime is.

Oh, and I shifted the coop drama dynamic in Silkieland.  For two nights, I picked up the two little bitches that want to play bouncer at the top of the ramp, and I held them.  All the other birds went gratefully and peacefully to bed, while I just stood there, holding two hens.  I even walked around and did stuff with one hand, holding them.  They were pretty ok with it (it’s warm; birds usually like being held, they just don’t like the transition- being grabbed).  Then, dead last, I dropped them into the doorway, and shut the gate.  Only problem was the rooster, who was very reluctant to get aboard the ark because he knew these two weren’t in yet.  His job, and therefore identity, is to be last in, first out.  Tonight I had visitors distract me from interfering, and yet, something had shifted over there!  It was quiet and quick, and there were no sentries atop the ramp!  We’ll see if the lesson sticks.  You be good or I’ll hold you!

 

 

Tomato seeds

Pretty colours!  I set up to save seeds from most of the tomato varieties I grew this year.  They’ve each got annotation on size, flavour, and vine behavior (“disobedient”, “excessive suckers”)

Each tub has the ripest, spoiled on the vine where possible fruits, and they’re going to rot down into a soupy mess with a scum of mold on top, yay.  I may not keep them in the house for that.  Last time I was ferment-saving seeds I forgot about them in the camper and they were perfect.  Excellent germination. I’m excited to have learned that tomatoes grow true (yay!), and I’m not daunted that tomatoes require the seeds to be fermented to breach the protective jelly coating they hold around their seeds.  Easy!

What I am daunted by is the fruit flies.  I didn’t realize I was setting up a fruit fly farm.

Another first successful grow:ground cherries!  They’re so delicious, and look like pearly peach berries, in their little paper lanterns.

Happy about living naturally