Category Archives: Family + Friends + Animals

An Only chick

Only one baby hatched:(  I think it’s just too early for chicks; too tough for them to survive and egg cooling happens too rapidly this early in the spring.

I thought only chicks were super sad, growing up alone, but they do get intense one-on-one attention.  Little Mama gave the other eggs a couple days, then strutted out all Alright kiddo, time to learn to scratch! 

I moved her abandoned eggs down the line, to the six Silkies currently broody in the Silkie coop.  The eggs are all mixed up now but some were started a few days after the others.  There’s some hope for more.

Of course, Little Mama’s vicious.   She hasn’t drawn my blood yet, but she’s ready to kill everyone, including herself and her chick, in the face of the threat of being picked up!  I’m considering wearing gloves just to move her outside and to put her box in the coop at night.

She’s so cute from a distance though.  She was busy dust bathing, and I could see the chick was getting a little tired, the head was starting to sink, and she popped up and clucked her way into the box and curled up.  Ok, now it’s time for a nap!  and the chick followed her in and burrowed in.

First day on the grass!  And today, freedom.  She’s intent on digging holes, everywhere.


A chick!

The first chick of 2020 has hatched!  These eggs had a rough go.  I had a barred rock hen broody, which was exciting – those two are the sweetest birds.  But she got off of them!  She’s done it before; it’s like she’s got a calendar in her head and when she’s sat too long, it’s over, instead of being connected to the life in the egg.

So I put the abandoned eggs under this little lady, who I’m between calling Little Mama, and Polly, my only Silkie cross, who was thankfully also broody, et voila, one baby.

She’s in the broody-usual, a cardboard box in a chickery, in the greenhouse for now.

Here she is hunkered down in broody mama mode.

Do I even have to point out who the the looky-loo is?  It’s Nosey.  Of course, it’s Nosey.


Well that’s a vast improvement

What a relief for the eyes to have the beehives undressed for the year.  This is the view out my front window.

Such a visual improvement!The before picture.  Good God,  what a trash heap.  Extraneous stuff wrapped around the bottom is to deter the chickens from pecking at the styrofoam.

Nosey’s a big styrofoam-eating culprit, and me running outside at her shouting does nothing.  What?  Crunchy! I like Nosey.  I don’t want her to die by extruded polystyrene.

In progress.  Foam on the brush pile out of chicken reach.  There’s Nosey.

Sunflower hive is dead.  I noticed a couple weeks ago.  I didn’t open it up yet but peering down into it, it seems empty, not so much starved.  Bee mysteries.

Violet, far right, is as always, the hive with the chip on the shoulder.   I ALmost got stung while unwrapping.  One bee zooming out and clung to my cheek next to my lip, buzzing furiously while I breathed, calmed myself, and chanted Don’t sting, don’t sting.  I talk for a living, I need the full use of my mouth!  It worked, the bee left after giving me a good scare.


A quick catch-up – the birds are all sleeping in the greenhouse now, so if I need to leave I can secure them in there and take off with my mind at ease.  I’m drunk on the new freedom and am doing that quite a bit.

When I’m home, they are released and I watch over them (there have been no losses since I went full sentinel), but they gravitate back into the warm greenhouse.  They LOOOOVE the greenhouse for about two months, or half of winter.  Then they start to get bored and demanding.

Egg production is suddenly and precipitously down, after an egg boom in October, even though the weather is lovely.  They don’t seem to like disruption.  Cheeks and Ketchup are both offline and molting, just when everyone else has finally leafed out again for wintertime.  Velvet is gorgeous and Cleopatra is feathered again.

Only one set of chicks is still being parented, and I’ve got some good stories about them.  About seven Silkies are still trying to sit on eggs, even though most of them never have an egg to sit on, it just looks like the thing to do, I guess.

I harvested a small amount of honey, and the bees are mopping up the drawn frames in the warm afternoons.  I haven’t got my garlic in or the garden put to bed (ha!).

I’m cleaning and gathering, doing some of the fall things, although still flat out working.  This Christmas will be lean!

As much as I enjoy Fall Back, Daylight Savings Time is dumb!  Just leave it one time all year like sensible regions do!

Chicken sitting, and an accidental week off.

I had no intentions of taking a week+ off blogging, but I had a real week from hell.  A book deadline, two books released, other time-sensitive obligations, and a side serving of serious stress which led to far too many nights working past midnight, so I’m just coming up for air now and seeing what else really needs to be done.

The bees got reduced on time, they’re happy.  The chickens, though, are under siege.  A predator grabbed a chick.  A chick!!!  How dare they!?  Right out of the inner chicken zone.  “Luckily” it was one of Velvet’s, so they both have two left – each still has a sibling.  Only chicks are so sad.   All the birds were so upset by this nearly all of them decided to sleep somewhere else, which is a story for another day.

So I changed my habits.  I have to do a substantial amount of work daily on my computer, and this cat/fox/mink isn’t bold enough to attack while I’m outside with them, so now I bring my internet with me and work outside in the afternoon:

sitting on chicken coop with laptop
My new office.

It’s cold, the wind blows my papers around, my fingers freeze, but it works.  No casualties since I started playing sentinel.  The smallest coop is a perfect size on the perimeter of Chickenland.

It is a wonder Nosey hasn’t hopped up there with me yet.   What’s really nice is being furniture in the midst of the chicken society, and watching them operate once they forget about me.  Serene, relaxed scratching, grooming, resting, and a constant murmur of communication.  It’s very quiet.  They have a nice casual circuit of exploration.  Looking for new bugs, I suppose.  Even the Brahmas drift by together.

Usually I’m the disturbance they’re responding to, squawking, running to, running away, announcing, but it’s a very slow pace of life in chicken world when I’m not doing anything noteworthy.

Except for the chicks.  They still zoom around.

Beehive reduction

It’s that time, time to reduce the size of the beehive stacks in preparation for winter, and steal their honey.

I hate it.

I don’t like taking their honey, and I don’t like the degree of disruption it causes, nor the death.  In the process of taking the hives all apart, robber bees come from the other hives and there are disputes and battles to the death.  Bees are very good at killing each other and the bee bodies pile up.  I don’t know how to mitigate this yet.

It has to be done, though.  The hives need to be in a compact space packed with full frames of honey for the winter.  It’s not heat efficient to be in a silo.

Pansy:Late afternoon, not finished sorting frames, and a bridge for the bees to get back to their door.They aren’t interested in going home though, they are in a frenzy of emergency cleanup operation, trying to save the honey that is suddenly outside their house.  It’s mayhem.

After taking the frames I’m keeping and sweeping them free of bees (time consuming, multi-stage process), they had three partials to clean up and move the honey back inside.  They will probably be at that most of today.

Pansy has the most vitality of the hives.  Despite swarming twice (and I lost one), she has been reproducing like crazy and building fast.  Marigold and Sunflower, this year’s swarm/split hives, all done.  They adjusted well, minimal death.  Marigold is maybe a little frustrated, bearding on the front like they don’t have enough space (they do), and they aren’t letting go of that completely empty frame yet, even at night.

Three down, one to go:I saved the doozy for last.

Today I get into the skyscraper.  This is Violet, my oldest hive, who has never swarmed (I split her to Sunflower this year).  Pansy is swarmy, Violet refuses, no matter how big she gets.   She’s also a bit crankier than the other three hives, less patience.  I expect she’ll winter in three supers, but I guess I’ll find out today.

The weather is perfect this week, warm enough at night for bees caught outside on salvage missions to survive.  The long term forecast says this is my last chance.  Now the bees will be contracting, working closer to home on final stockpiling, and producing their last brood for their winter population.  I hope there’s a warm spell in October too, but you never know anymore.

They grow up so fast

I’ve lost track of all the sets of chicks.  There are around five that are almost indistinguishable from grownup chickens, the “big chicks”.Overnight, they are  all legs and big bodies.  If I don’t look twice, they look full grown.   These have all graduated to living in the “big coop”, although I’m still plucking at least one out of the tree every night.  No, not the coop!  They aren’t nice to me in there!Hello, I’m a Cheeks junior!  The “middle chicks” are still distinct – they are the five that Ghost and Velvet are raising.  They are perching pros, but still attached to their mamas, who have a nice bond with each other.   Once they ditch their moms, they’re easier to lose track of.

Then there are the “little chicks”.  They had a good week living in the greenhouse undisturbed, but naturally, they grew discontented with the daily manual transfer to and from in a box, and one morning, there was an escape.

You can’t put the chickens back in the box, so at that point, they were out in the crowd.  What is adorable, is that she led them through the fence into Silkie land, where she stays with them in the taller brush.  She remembers where she lived.Although the Silkies and big chickens generally don’t mix, the fence is permeable.  When the “big chicks” were tiny, they learned how to go under it in one spot there’s a three inch gap.  They remembered, even as they got bigger, and still go to the spot, poke their heads under, and slither through.  So they come and go, very nosy, have to see everything for themselves.  I think this Silkie mom is using the same spot.  Sometimes she seems to get stuck inside.   These little ones just started perching practice too!

The Brahmas are joining Team Mooch

The Brahmas are joining the chicken clique that hangs out around the house, which is really nice.  It’s the safest place for the chickens, and the most social.

Naturally the most vulnerable chickens, moms, chicks and adolescents, range the farthest, giving me palpitations, while the old girls homestick.They’re always together.  The Brahmas are so sweet, they’re the big feather pillows of the chicken world. One of them is in a half-molt state.  Feathers falling out everywhere but also new ones growing back- a whole new set on her feet; she’s got whole patches growing in, but is still dropping feathers.  She’s not going for that whole naked stage.   Too cold.

Now they’ve joined the House Moochers, that leaves only two retirees that still linger close to the retiree coop (coop nearest house).
Dozing, here with Cheeks.