Coops out

So tired… but I had to bring the coops out of greenhouse in order to plant in there (only three weeks late).  It has to be done.

The coops in and coops out days are benchmarks of the season.  The beginning of summer, and the beginning of winter.  Important, marker days.  Like spring cleaning, the GH gets everything pulled out of it and then transformed, in purpose and appearance.

It’s much easier to shift the coops now that I’ve rick-shawed them.  There’s just a bit of awkwardness getting them over the threshold of the GH.

For some reason all the birds decided to sleep in the big coop (why?) on moving night, and the big coop is much heavier starting empty.  So I shifted the four biggest birds to the small coop by hand.

The guineas weren’t able to roost in peace with me moving all the furniture at dusk, so they all went to bed on the rails of the Silkie coop in the Silkie greenhouse, which was novel, adorable, and really smart.  It was a good Roost B.  Maybe I’ll get them to sleep in there all summer.

So…tired…

Another Silkie Chick

White Silkie hen with black eyes and a small black rose comb, in the corner of a wire mesh enclosure, with a green bowl of feed and a small white-yellow chick with grey feet and beak.  Open cardboard box on side, wood chips

We’re getting a rash of only, early chicks. Here we have an unexpected Silkie chick.

As much as they are the most vulnerable chicks and have a lowered chance of survival, they do surprisingly well with the roulette wheel of reaching hatching at all. I don’t “help” my Silkie hens keep eggs, ie., I don’t isolate them with a set of eggs and food unless I mean for them to hatch some eggs I want them to hatch. When not doing that, I leave them to themselves, and they come and go for food and water and go in and out of different rooms, and rob eggs from each other and shuffle them around….I don’t even know what goes on in there.

White Silkie hen with black eyes and a small black rose comb looking over chick, in the corner of a wire mesh enclosure, with a green bowl of feed and a small white-yellow chick with grey feet and beak.  Open cardboard box on side, wood chips

Sometimes it seems like they’re playing trading cards with them, and I swear they are capable of moving the eggs from room to room, which is impressive, to go around two corners. I mark the eggs so that I’m only removing fresh, unmarked eggs, and that’s it. So in that kind of coop anarchy, a chick is doing pretty well to reach hatch, especially this early in the year! But once they’re a week old, they’re usually here to stay.

Vector and Little Mama

Vector and Little Mama made it all the way out to the house! I was surprised to see them out the front window, toodling around together.

Small dark brown hen and white chick walking around in the grass.  Big pile of brush behind them and corner of a beehive visible.

Small dark brown hen and white chick following behind in the grass.  Big pile of brush behind them and corner of a beehive visible.

It’s kind of sad that Vector is an Only Chick, and Little Mama would not only be devastated if she loses him, but she’s a superlative mother, and it’s a shame she can’t pass on her skills to more babies.

White chick standing up tall next to small dark brown chicken standing together surrounded by branches and sticks

Pig ears

This is how I know the pigs are in their house, and not up to no good!

A-frame structure with rough boards, hay bales showing between the boards, , and different colours of steel roofing. Pointy black ears showing in the gap over the boards. Surroundings trees, orange mesh electric fence and brown dirt and piles of sticks.
A-frame structure or rough boards and steel roofing in a brown area of mud and sticks, enclosed by orange mesh fence and trees. Pointy black ears just visible inside structure.

This is the view from my “upstairs deck”. It’s nice to have the pigs so darn close to home, they are easy to keep an eye on!

Snow in May

Quite a surprise to wake up to several inches of snow in the morning, mid May.

Side of wood-sided building with shed roof and red door, smaller structure behind with red door, trees and branches in foreground, all thickly covered with heavy snow

Gorgeous, just unexpected for Mother’s Day.

The pigs were non-plussed. Maybe they’ve seen snow before, but it doesn’t seem like it.

The squirrels were very funny, bounding around in the snow, tunneling and popping up through it like gophers. Competition is heightened since I blocked squirrel access to the bird feeders, and they’re stuck with what they can find on the ground.

Evidently, they inspected the feed storage in the morning, to see if there was any early access.

Three aluminum garbage cans with thick snow caps on the lids, with chunks of snow disrupted as though chewed

Red squirrel perched in a snowscape of many vertical branches, all snow laden, with paws folded over chest and tail against back

Red squirrel looking directly at camera, paws closed in front.  Sitting in deep snow with a few vertical twigs visible.

Red squirrel sitting in deep snow with tail around feet, holding something to its mouth with both pawas, eating.

Then there were the chickens. It was brisk today, so I left the door to the GH closed for awhile, and when I opened it, they surged up to me and out the door. Annnnnd, stopped short.

Six brownish hens, three pearl grey guinea fowl, one white rooster, in a group in front of open door of clear plastic wrapped structure, looking at snow covered ground in front of them.

Six brownish hens, two pearl grey guinea fowl, one white rooster, in a group in front of open door of clear plastic wrapped structure, looking at snow covered ground in front of them.  Rooster and guinea looking directly at camera.

Necks were long.

Six brownish hens, one pearl grey guinea fowl, one white rooster, in a group in front of open door of clear plastic wrapped structure, turning away from the snow and back towards door.

Consensus was to promptly go back inside!

These birds are enjoying continued warmth and luxury accomodations far past their usual eviction date. I always plant tomatoes in the GH on May 1, which means moving the chicken coops outside for the summer and a major house clean. Not this year. I’ve got nothing to put in the GH yet, because my starts are growing slow and are too small, sooo, the chickens benefit. They’re really dust-bathing up a storm by the far doors.

It was a warm day and the snow was all gone by the end of it, just a morning novelty.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Rainwashing

I set all my houseplants out on the “patio” in the rain for a good washing. They are dusty and due for a spring cleaning.

Rosemary, aloe, goldfish plant, and jade plant, in pots, set on wooden deck with wood railing behind

And then there’s my Big Mama Aloe. I didn’t know that an aloe could get so large. I don’t even remember where I got her as a baby, just that she was an unremarkable size, and she’s grown to resemble a pineapple plant.

Large aloe vera plant in white ceramic pot on wooden deck in front of red door.  Rubber boots and wheelbarrow in background

She’s so large, and so heavy, that moving her is quite a maneuver. I have to squat with good form, and go through doors backwards, supporting the substantial weight of her body/limbs.

She’s a wonder. She’s been producing babies for years, which I repot and foist on anyone who will take one. Most visitors have been talked into leaving with an aloe, so her offspring are all over the area. I did well giving away aloes this summer, and the only one of her “daughters” I still have (first photo) is now making her own babies! I’ll be overrun!

Clearly, they really like the environment they’re in. This one sits on the floor in front of the window next to the wood stove, and I water all my house plants, and window boxes, with the water I’ve used for washing eggs. That’s all; evidently it agrees with them.

Yellow tape measure and green tip of an aloe vera branch showing 48.5 inches

It seemed like her arms were as long as mine, so I measured. Not far off. Her wingspan is four feet and mine is 66”, so about the same, not counting my hands.

Small, light green aloe vera shoots growing in white pot between thicker spiny aloe branches of parent plant

More babies! High time to transplant them.
Who wants an aloe plant?!

Shantytown

What’s going on in here???

OMG, broody hens!

They went broody on the same day, and after a couple of days occupying the nest boxes in the coop, I figured they were sufficiently committed to broodiness and I could move them.

I carefully prepared their accommodations in the evening. Two chickeries close together, both entirely wrapped with canvas and paper feed sacks (hey, we’re not going for cute here, obviously), but with the wall between them not visually blocked. This backfires later in the story.

Rectangular enclosure draped with canvas and covered with plywood and corrugated roofing

I prepared lovely bowl shaped beds of straw in cardboard boxes just the right size, situated facing each other. Broodiness begets broodiness, so I thought they would be little broody sisters vibing off each other. After dark, I opened the coops, and gently moved all of the eggs of each into the waiting, cozy box. That’s when it went sideways.

I took one hen, settled her into her box. Not having it. I stuff her back in the box, she’s confused, but, Ok, maybe. I’ll sit here. I went for the other hen. She went ballistic. Flipping out. Screaming, flapping, kicking. She started jumping, inside the chickery, bashing the steel roofing ceiling.

I peeked at the first hen. She seized the moment to escape. I wait for her to return to her nest box in the coop, grab her, and bring her back. Now she’s a ball of fury, and also, every other bird in the building is wailing like the apocalypse has clearly arrived – they can’t see it but they’re sure it’s happening – and it’s deafening. It’s cold. I’m worried about these eggs. I jam the struggling bird into the box with the eggs and block her in there with a board.

The other hen is wild. I catch her and shove her in her box and she fights like a prisoner getting thrown in a cell. Eggs go flying, hay goes flying. I push it all in and block her in with a board. Then I leave so everyone can calm down and I go think about what I’ve done. Each of them has 10 eggs that have definitely sparked by now, so I’ve just killed 20 potential chicks and broken up two broody hens when standard hens going broody is still unusual and an opportunity.

I go out to check. The first hen has pushed her board, escaped, and is standing on top of her cardboard box. But calm. Just confused and suspicious. I block her in better.

The next day I left them blocked in their cardboard boxes all day. I felt bad, but didn’t want to risk it. I took a careful, quiet peek, and they were at least settled.

IMGP5109.JPG

Brown hen with striped neck peeking out of open cardboard box, lying on hay and wood chips

Since, all has been well. By the second day they were in the broody trance and I could set them up as intended and feed them every day since. Hen 1 has been daily digging a hole next to her box and demolishing her food, Hen 2 has only been nibbling and having water. Both have drifted forward in their boxes so they’re just inside, and they have arranged their nests with neat but minimalist aesthetics. They are due quite soon, now.

Two moms

We have our first Silkie chick.  Cute little thing, brown spider markings, so it will turn out brown.

The neat thing is that two hens are parenting it.  I’ve never had this happen before.

The hens set next to each other in one of the apartments of the coop, always eager to swipe eggs from the other, but also always jammed in side by side (by choice).  Then when a chick was hatched (I believe the silver hen hatched it, but how would I know?), I left them in place together for a few days, as I do.  Every time I checked it would be under the other hen.

Then came time for the upgrade to a chickery, complete with cardboard box, so I put the silver hen in the chickery with the chick.  Tada!  They both got distressed at the separation, though, so I had to add the other hen, with her eggs.

Thus passed a boring week where both hens seemed to be passing most of their time in the box acting broody.  Chick seemed fine though, and they were both coming out to eat regularly, so I left them to it.  I was definitely hoping for another egg to hatch, but alas, no.  I tried to give them two boxes, but they went into one together.

Now it’s grass time.  The brown hen has given up on those rotten eggs finally, and they are both all about parenting.  Clucking, warming.  The chick goes and tucks under whoever’s handy.  I’ve had hens act very sisterly raising chicks together, even temporarily warming another chick, but this is really interesting.

This teeny little bird is over a week old! Still smaller than a standard hatchling.

The brown hen and the chick are in the box now:)

A lovely sunny day with green grass.

Guess Whoooo

I was startled heading out at night to close the chickens when something swooped out from the pig house past me and landed in the tree right next to the house.   Like, these trees almost brush the house.

This is a very bold owl, unconcerned about me, that’s for sure.
I was worried for the guineas, who had been out late, but they were all fine, perched up in the GH.  They were whimpering in an unusual tone, like they were aware of the owl and scared, but no harm done.

Nuthatchery

There’s a nuthatch that seems interested in this birdhouse, that’s right next to the house, in the current pig yard.

By “interested”, I mean he/she seems super excited about it, although nuthatches always seem excited, much like chickadees.I don’t know if they’ve committed, but I’ve seen one in and out over several days, and I’ve even seen TWO nuthatches together at it, which is a good sign.

This is an example of a species profiting from tameness.  They are comfortable being near me, and by nesting near me they get some measure of protection from the beasts that are not at all as comfortable getting so close to people.  Because it’s a nuthatch, they don’t make a traditional approach.  They creep all over the house like an ant.  I hope they stay and nest here.

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