Accidental lanterns

I was having fun with the partially frozen linings of 5-gallon buckets.  They made lanterns!  The ice cylinders looked so cool I had to put candles in them.  I got four came out of the bucket intact.Cheeks is doing well, although all she wants to eat are sunflower seeds.  The guineas have stayed inside, and none succumbed to exposure.  There were more than 70 grosbeaks here this morning – that’s as far as I got before they went airborne – they’re very touchy.

I won’t forget to close the doors again

Forecast:  Snow changing to ice pellets then developing to rain later in the afternoon.

In other words, gross. This morning at dawn already there were a couple of inches of snow accumulated, and it was eerily dark in the greenhouse, but also very warm, with the blanket of snow.

To my horror, only one guinea was walking around.  What the?  I started closing up the drafty holes in the wall for the chickens to access their yard.  I could see by the snow that there were no footprints using them. Last night I’d remembered that I hadn’t shut these hatches – it’s a new close-up task – but the guineas wouldn’t go outside so no biggie.  Where were they, though?  I looked for bodies, fearing a massacre.  None.

I looked outside.  There they were, huddled two feet from the open door, standing in two inches of snow.  Outside in their bare feet!  I waved my arms at them from the other side of the fence.  They stared at me morosely, snow accumulating on their backs and tiny heads (emergencies aren’t time to get the camera).

I had to squeeze through the fence, approach them – almost touching them before they moved – and shoo them through the hole in the wall. Oh, there’s the door.

Oh no.  Still one missing.  I looked around the yard, saw nothing, and went inside to feed the chilly beaks.  Still one missing.  I feared it was a frozen lump frozen to the ground somewhere.  I shut the doors.   Then, flapping beating against the wall of the GH, on the outside.  Alive!

Happily, I warmed both food and water this morning.  It was warm in the GH, above freezing, but I felt cold with the snowy mess outside, so the birds got warm breakfast (I’m cold, put on a sweater).  I hope the guineas all make it.  They don’t do well with cold, and can drop dead after getting chilled, or almost any reason.Grosbeaks, doves, and blue jays are all here gobbling.

House chicken 2018

Cheeks is in “intensive” box care in the house.  At the end of October, she somehow got the end of one of her toes torn or bitten off, pretty cleanly.  I was horrified but it can’t be reattached, so what can you do?

She’s been spending her days in a chickery safe from harassment but still with the other hens in the GH.  I figured she needed safe time to heal and the the wound would close and she’d make a recovery.  Appetite, check, using the foot, check, lots of time resting but normal behaviour.

Then suddenly, she wasn’t using the foot anymore and it’s swollen and hot.  Infection entered her amputation and grew in her foot.  In spite of eating apparently normally, she’s also lost a lot of weight that I hadn’t noticed as she had molted before this happened.  So she’s not in good shape.  Certainly not the beauty she used to be.

What I now know that what I SHOULD have done at the time of the injury is stitch the skin closed over the break and polysporin the heck out of it and bandage it up and maintain the dressing.  All of that seems completely obvious in retrospect, but I guess I wasn’t thinking right.  She was still so darn active and feisty that confining her to a box or bandaging her foot seemed ridiculous at the time.   Now she’s fighting infection and I have to push antibiotic pills in her beak 2x/day (hates it!) and give her foot soaks (loves it!).  This could go either way.She’s in a modified banana box.  We can call her Cheekita.  Spunky enough to be sticking her head out to look around is a good sign.

Friends

It’s so interesting and touching to see chickens form alliances and bonds.   Sometimes it makes sense when birds hang out together (birds of a feather), sometimes I forced the issue, but most of the time it’s organic, and often odd.I would never have called this one.  Sidewinder and Apples’ chick.This is so unlikely.  Sidewinder is a VERY low chicken.  I can say with certainty that she’s the lowest.  She’s kind of a mess, with a butchered beak, therefore wicked underbite-not good for self-defense or settling arguments, bad feet, and she doesn’t do herself any favours because she’s always cringing subserviently  around, so badly that she approaches things sideways (hence, Sidewinder).  She’s kind of a sad subject, but she’s awfully hardy, outliving some of her peers.  I’ve always liked her because she’s sweet, and tried to help her, but there’s not much one can do for a case of self-esteem that dire.  She’s in a jacket because to go with her other problems, she just molted.   But now, she’s got a friend, or a pet, or a Little Sister.  I don’t know what’s at the root of their relationship, but they are an inseparable pair.  That little chick is an independent minded one.  It left its Silkie momma behind early, and not only did it move out of Silkieland, choosing not to sleep in their coop anymore, but it moved into a big coop on its own (well, maybe Stepmom helped with that).  I’ve got birds nearly grown that won’t go in a coop on their own at night (if their mommas don’t teach them young, it’s a real struggle).

Sidewinder’s a different bird now too.  I’ve never seen her head up so high, and she also moved coops.  She’s got someone to look after now.  Purpose!  Adorable!!

Everyone out!

Everyone found the chicken doors yesterday. I finished tying down the mesh around the fence, so it should be guinea tight.It’s kind of dead and slim pickin’s, but it’s outdoors.   They also noticed right away that it’s quite cold outside, so most of them had a look around, and then went back in to warm up.  Spoiled bunch.They seem to much prefer being in the corn stalk strip. In the open they act nervous, exposed.  Heard some of the most pathetic, unsure, low-volume crowing out of the roosters, too.  Hilarious!  They were so un-confident in the new situation, they were crowing at mumble volume, for a rooster.  I’m a rooster….but don’t take that too seriously, I don’t want to disturb anyone.   Velvet and her friends, the Pufflings.

Hen yard

Another afternoon spent in service of chicken comfort.

I created the chicken yard, finally. The fence was already there, keeping chickens out of my garden all summer, but now they are to be kept in, and I strung up the bird netting to keep the pro-flying guineas in and raptors out.

I imagined that the chickens would come out and enjoy it this sunny afternoon, but instead it was a tedious, cold, frustrating task that I clued up right around the usual guinea grass hour before dusk, when most chickens are on their way to bed, so most of them have no idea about it yet. Inside I cut two upside down T slits in the wall of the greenhouse.  Chicken flaps, like a cat door.  I figure once they get used to them, they’ll have no problem using them.  Surprise, Velvet was the first to stick her beak out. More investigation.The guineas like moral support for investigating.No one went out!  The guineas were miffed at me for not letting them out the door (It’s that time!), and although long necking through the slit, wouldn’t use it.

Then I taped back the corners of the flaps, and that did the trick. Of course, the usual baby barred rock, Nosey, and two other chicks came out too. Tomorrow morning could be exciting, before the rains come again.

 

Garlic and grass

Planted the garlic today.  On paper that’s half a month late, but by the weather, it’s just the right time.  The beds covered with hay look exactly the same after planting as before.  So many worms under the mulch!

I started some wheatgrass for the guineas.  I couldn’t remember if wheatgrass required soil or not, and I’m still not sure, so I’ll start trying it soil free.  I will also find out soon how many days it takes to become edible, and cycle trays through the windowsills.  Now we can spend all winter with the windowsills filled with start trays too.

Tomorrow is scheduled to be yard day for the chickens, so that should be fun and exciting.  I have to drape the greenhouse adjunct garden with bird net to thwart the sky predators and the guineas from escaping, and cut doors, and then they will have an outside yard they can come and go from.  I expect enthusiasm.

I also have worms

Worms are among the lifeforms that depend on me to feed them around here, and to fluff up their bedding.

This bin is very full, and has just been fluffed with new absorbent paper shreddings.  I think it looks like a pasta salad.  Of course, that’s where vermicelli comes from (the word, not the pasta).

Lots of food, good moisture levels; these worms are happy.  HW:  “What exactly does an unhappy worm look like?”

Funny you should ask.  I know the answer to that now.

Things they don’t tell you when encouraging new vermiculture enthusiasts:  a hungry worm will try to escape.  They climb the walls of the tub, and they can find a way to get out.  And they do.  Greener pastures here I come. I’m going to make my way in the world.  Hear me roar.

So keep them fed.  If the worms are climbing the walls- they’re not happy worms.  Now I know.  Plenty of food – no climbing.  All you see are rapidly retracting tails when you lift the lid.

 

What do I do when I haven’t taken any pictures all day?

Take pictures in the fading light at guinea hour.There’s the guineas grazing in colour-coded groups.There’s the chicks that slipped out today, quite proud of themselves.  Nosey on the left.  They’re pretty good about following the guineas back in, when they call it a night. The little barred rock again.  I’m with you, right?  I’m the right colour! Oooh, can I come out?! The small chickens are so cute. They’re cute right up until they’re suddenly big burly roosters swaggering around.  They spend a great deal of their juvenile lives independent of their mothers.  Months.  They have so much growing yet to do when they strike off on their own, but their sibling bonds (the chicks they shared a nest with) seem to stay really important until full adulthood.

Today was a big sun bathing day, warm in the greenhouse, chicken legs stuck out everywhere.  It’s very quiet when it’s warm.  The birds are all flopped out, dozing.  Too sedate to squabble.   Tomorrow, rain.

I made fudge, which is awesome because it involves vats of melted chocolate:Also worked, as usual, and felled some more of the ugly buckthorn forest.  Is the glass half full or empty?  I can look around after two tanks of gas burned and see little difference, or I can go  Yeah, two more tanks of gas … spent cutting down an invasive so regeneratively powerful I might start calling them Triffids.  I have to do that in the morning in order to feel any accomplishment about it.  When the snow comes, I think that’s when the amount of land I’ve cleared of the beastly GLB this fall, a fraction of the infection,  will actually look like something.  Here’s hoping.

The guinea graze

The guineas haven’t had their evening graze for a couple of days due to rain, and I let them out a touch early.  (Time change!  What time is it?  Old time or new time?)Perchick shot out along with the guineas.  That’s a Cheeks move, to get in the middle of the guinea crowd and run where they’re going.  Can’t see me!  Guinea speed is a dead run for a chicken.I wouldn’t mind some grass too.Then a few other chickens squeezed out.What’s going on out here? 

That little Whitey is an escape artist.  It came out for a graze once and ended up spending the night outside, luckily alive.  Sure enough, I looked at closing time, couldn’t find him, figured he was already in, then he reappeared 10 mins later in the corn stalks.Then there’s this one. I’m FREEEEE!Perchick stuck real close to the guinea flock.  Even with me looming over them on bobcat watch, they seem nervous outside. It’s such a weird thing that the guineas are colour segregationists, but the grey (pearls) don’t get along with the white/buffs.  They are aggressive and unkind to the non-grey ones.  The whites sleep on a separate perch now, and get attacked.  The greys are all cliqued up.  So strange!   Even though the guineas move like a school of fish and are all attached by invisible elastic bands that  stretch but then sproing back, the whites are distinct outsiders, constantly being forced away from the core of the flock.  They’ll have to go to their own white-only home.Back inside, the guineas are ready to go to bed but the chicks are hogging their stairs.  The laundry rack is exceedingly popular, all day.

I’m worried about this buff guinea.  It tends to lie around, in corners by itself.  Knowing how they can act like that at noon and be dead by two, it’s worrisome, but perhaps it’s just avoiding the prejudice.  It’s been a couple days and is still fine. 

Happy about living naturally