Category Archives: Family + Friends + Animals

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!!

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. 

No more pigs

The pigs have ceased to be.  As always, they had a good, lazy, romping life, with mud up to their eyes most days and loads of naps.  I’m not going to miss this pair, though.  They were extra sneaky and cunning, and developed a taste for illicit exploring.Now I’ll be able to leave home again.

Just standin’ around

The old girls have decisively claimed the roof of Chris & Cream Puff’s coop.  They pile up there all day.   An alliance is forming.Sidewinder, the molter in a jacket (again!  She molted last year), and Apples’ chick.  She was raised with the six other Silkies, but she doesn’t hang out with them anymore.  They’re babies.  The full Silkies are a third of her size.  This one could be a full leghorn.  Cute.  There seems to be a bond.

They might be standin’ around, but the chickens still suggest you vote, vote, vote today!

Sun day

The sun came out and dried up all the rain.  Not all – there was a lot of rain.  And more wind.  This morning, the pig house was upside down.  No pigs.  That’s never happened before (the pig house flipped, certainly not absent pigs).  I can picture them bolting out of there as their house lifted off of them.

Pigs are easygoing, pleasant, optimistic creatures though, so they had no worries about settling back in after breakfast.I had a good time in the greenhouse, cleaning up, untying strings.  It seems like such a short time ago we were tying up the strings for all the vining plants to climb- cukes, melons, tomatoes.  It’s nice to spend time with my birds when they’re at ease, not just in the food frenzy I get to see twice daily. They spend their down time lounging, and investigating, and investigating new places to lounge. They flop down anywhere.  Chickens cashed out everywhere.The guineas really like it under that coop.

What chickens really enjoy is industry – somebody else’s.  I was tearing down the cucumber vines in this corner.  Moved a few things, paused to sort out my ipod, turned around, and…the whole crowd is in there “going over” my work. Hmm, we’ll just have a look, shall we?

Rain day

The rain is coming DOWN.  The birds are lucky to all be in the big dry chicken dome.  The downpour is deafening in the greenhouse, and the guineas are up high next to the skin.  It must be awful in their little skulls.  Sometimes they yell back at the noise.  They put their heads under their wings though.

The pigs are sausaged in their house, full of pumpkin.  They have a good spot for the house right now – it’s dry – the water is draining away instead of filling up their sleeping divot, and they’ve got their hay “just right”.  They’re funny.  They sleep most of the day when it rains.

The word is out – the feeder is full.  Once you start feeding the birds for the winter, you can’t stop.    The grosbeaks are back.  Their population seems to have done well.  Boy do they make a racket yelling in the poplars.  There are two big brown birds that are new to me also at the feeder.  The chickadees sure don’t stop for rain.