Category Archives: Chickens

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!!

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. 

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?

The killer has pointy ears

I came face to face with Inky’s killer today.  I saw the rounded brown form lope into the brush as I came by the greenhouse to check on the pigs.  I thought it was a raccoon because it was slow and lazy getting out of sight.

To be sure, I snuck up for a closer look.  It moved.  I moved.  It wasn’t in much of a hurry.  I found it, camouflaged in the underbrush.  A bobcat.   Sitting front feet together like a cultured cat, head forward, round face a little sad looking, like wild cats’ faces look. It boldly stared back at me, less than 20′ away.  We stared.

That’s who got Inky.  And Mayo in September, and two hours before closing the last of the birds into the greenhouse, Philippe Petit.

Losing PP was not the tragedy you might think.  It was a decision made for me.  He was good, but he wasn’t a five star rooster, and he saw Silkie hens as hens, and tried to mate them.  That is a terrible trait I don’t like to see in full sized roosters.  It’s awful to see that big blimp trying to climb on a little bitty fur hen.  A good big rooster sees the Silkie hens differently, not as sexual prey.

Usually the little hens are too fast, a Silkie rooster comes streaking in to set things to right,  or they are segregated, so it’s an occasional problem, but it’s not a problem that should exist.   On the other hand, Cheeks and Puffcheeks were in love with PP, so culling him was not a decision I was looking forward to making.  The bobcat made it for me.

I’m so glad to be able to have all my birds in the greenhouse, and to have got them in early this year.   If I’m doing the best I can to protect them, and there’s still losses,  then I have to accept that and be glad I can protect as many as I can.  I’m not over Inky though.

Zero loss is an unrealistic notion – risk is the other side of the coin from the reward of free range freedom, but I’m not going to do what Harvey Ussery calls “feeding the foxes”.   They can’t be free range all the time – that’s not realistic either for the place we live.  I’d have to replace my flock every year after they were polished off by predators that came for the buffet.  It takes a lot of work to raise up a little chicken to adulthood (ask their moms), work you don’t see when you can just buy them at the store.  So I make an effort to keep them adequately entertained and comfortable inside all winter.  It isn’t that hard.  Their physical needs are easy; keeping them entertained is a little harder.

 

 

 

 

Meet Nosey

Nosey is a different little chicken.She runs up to me instead of getting out of my way, routinely stands on my boots and pulls my laces, and is generally underfoot.  If I’m bent over the edge of the Silkie yard, or a coop, she’s standing at my elbow.  I was cleaning Bravo coop and she was perched right next to my head, not giving me room to swing hay in and out, so I was like, ok, fine, you want to be in the middle of everything?, and I put her on my shoulder.  She was quite happy with that and it made it easier for me to work, until she pecked me in the corner of the eye!

Then things went out of focus.  It was a solid peck (she did not pull her pecks), but no permanent damage to my eye.  Except later I walked the same eye into the spout of a watering can, so maybe my peripheral vision was temporarily compromised.

This also Nosey.I want that tomato.  I wants it! Ok, it’s sort of like a swing. I just have to leean out…Last moment before an undignified flapping plummet to the floor.  I love that the other chickens find this Tarzan act in no way noteworthy.

All in!

What a load off my mind!  Everyone is in.  I thought it might all be too crowded for the numbers I have now, but it’s ok.  It’s sloppy and slapdash right now, but it will work out.  There’s plenty of room for the coops, and a pool, and more.

The guineas are being very tolerant about this mass invasion.  They very much like to sit up on top of Silkieland.Perhaps we’ll poop on you. I think they’re so cute.  They treat the chickens more like pets they’re fond of, than equals.  They watch out for the chickens and will erupt in alarm calling if one is in distress.  They’re always watching what’s happening, but stay a little bit aloof.

I just realized.  How am I going to recognize Galahad, once all of the Pearls grow up?!

It’s hard to feed everyone, because I get mobbed, and there’s tiny little chicks in the mix.  I walk slowly and carefully.

They’re all so happy!  It was remarkably quiet all day yesterday, and when I look in, everyone is piled up, or investigating something, or lounging somewhere.  Very peaceful.  It’s getting cold, too, and I’m reminded how lucky they are, because it’s nice and warm in there.

All the coops are cozy and clean.  I’m tidying in the greenhouse, but outside the greenhouse is a catastrophic mess, with all the doors, and canvas and chickeries and hen tents and sticks and buckets strewn around – huge mess, but I’ll get to it.  Note the little face on the other side of the fence.  Still golf ball sized, but getting very voluminous pants.   The chicks all learned how to go to bed in the coop in two nights- impressive!Ketchup etc on the rim of Silkieland – popular real estate.The guineas are piled up underneath Alpha coop! I dug a hole. My irrigation tape is still in.  I have to pull all that – lots to do yet.

Also yesterday I moved the pigs.  They’re out of the woods entirely now, as they need maximum sunshine as it gets cold, in their final weeks (one is gone already).  They were so funny!  They were sprinting around, galloping the length of their new field OINKOINKOINKOINKOINK!  And jumping on each other like dogs would play.    Very funny.  They’re very expressive.  I was trying to move the fence one post at a time, while they were in it still, but they kept running back up to me, because they’re excited.  I just found some delicious roots over there!  Oh, what are you doing here?  Looks like the fence is all floppy right here, oink oink…   I’m like, no!  Go away!  But I managed, kept them in.

Now I must dig all the potatoes, because it’s about to get COLD.