I thought this hen was about to expire. She spent a couple days hunched up in the greenhouse (no neck), with her eyes half closed. When hens get like that they aren´t feeling well. Sometimes they pull through it, sometimes they die. This hen is very old. She could be six or seven years old. She retired from doing eggs some time ago. But it seems she´s pulling through, and has decided to camp at a higher altitude today. Her neck is getting longer too.
I haven´t planted anything out in the GH yet, so the doors are open for the various fowl to come and go. Mostly they don´t go in there unless it rains; they are reveling in playing outside and have had enough of the greenhouse.
A guinea update – on the first night of freedom the new pair came back to the greenhouse! The second night, they were all up on the guinea house together- adorable! They don´t spend the day together – they travel in two separate packs all day, but they´re cool. They know where they live. The three-pack has a favorite spot by the trail, where the hen nestles down into the leaves under a little tree. I think she´s laying eggs, but not yet broody. She didn´t pick a very secret spot.
I was out in the garden half the day, putting in some starts. I go back to my pots of broccoli, and I find a mass of competing ticks playing king of the mountain on the popsicle stick (gross!).
Ticks climb up things, and then wait at the very tip of a branch or stick, reaching out their little legs like they want a hug, waiting for a mammal to walk by, and then they will drop or grab as you go by. The two on the right hand pot are in position.
Here, the popsicle stick must have been the highest point, so hot property. They also like to sit in wait on the rim of buckets. While I was taking the picture, and thinking how long is it going to take me to kill all these ticks? a couple dropped and set off at a clip straight towards me. They must have a great sense of smell.
We have lots of ticks. Stand still anywhere, watch the ground, and you can find a tick walking toward you. This is not a fun feeling.
And where there are real ticks, there are phantom ticks. There´s nothing like the first tick bite of the year to start up that feeling of ticks crawling all over you, all the time, even if it´s actually your hair or the tag in your shirt. Less than ten percent of the time, it is a real tick, but ´tis the season to be on edge.
I need several platoons of guineas out here to mop them up. Speaking of which, they all seem to be getting along. This morning when I opened the greenhouse, the new ones led the charge out the door and flowed straight into the woods.
I caught sight occasionally of the new ones in the woods, confused, squawking, but at the end of the day they were all together again, and standing around the greenhouse. Hopefully the new ones will show them around.
Of my remaining guineas (three died before maturity), I´ve been thinking I have only one hen. Maybe. They all have wattles.
I just got it explained to me though, that they do all have wattles, and the gender difference in guineas shows in the SIZE of the wattles. And their overall size. So yes, I have one hen (had).
Regardless, I wanted to even out the numbers some by adding a couple of hens. That would make three hens and two cocks; a better ratio. They arrived this evening.
I carried the sacked birds to the greenhouse in my arms, their little feet holding on to my hands through the bag.
I set them down in the greenhouse.
My hens immediately showed an interest.
I brought in the chickery and placed it around the bag.
The screen doors are off their hinges at the moment, so I used one of those to rest on top of the chickery cage for a lid. I tipped it up to reach in and slide them out of the bag. They were peaceful in the bag, but after being back in the light came on like a couple of jumping beans.
They were not happy about being caged. Not one bit. Racing up and down the walls in agitation.
Uh oh. One´s a guy! That doesn´t help at all!
He´s quite a bit bigger than her, with much bigger wattles.
It took about a tenth of a second for my original guineas to discover the interlopers. They popped their heads in the GH before I turned around.
And then, sure enough, the males squared up at each other through the screen, vigorously pecking at the barrier. Back and forth, like a typewriter.
The originals were quite worked up, and there was much scampering in and out of the greenhouse (Did you see them? Take another look!), but not a lot of noise.
I left them to it.
My big plan was to wait until it got dark enough for the originals to head for bed, whereupon I would shut them in the greenhouse, release the newbies, and they would have overnight to work it out together in the confines of the greenhouse. I was sorry about the zoo cage, but it was only for about an hour, and I didn´t want to risk the new ones taking off in fright and getting lost.
Maybe I shouldn´t have over thought it. A little later, a little darker, I shut the greenhouse doors and lifted the screen door/lid off the new arrivals who were ready to blast out. Hen first, they burst out, flew across the room and skidded to a stop right into the group. They came to a halt, silence fell (!), and all of them proceeded to stand there looking around suspiciously, like they always do.
What? Oh, we know each other. We´re cool.
In three seconds, the new birds are indistinguishable from the old ones. They´re just hangin’ out like they´ve never spent a day apart.
I thought they were going to fight. Maybe they were just excited.
The sun was beating on the greenhouse, so I opened the doors at both ends. The west door I had to dig the snow out, and it opened on a three foot bank of snow.
I didn’t bother with the screen door; I figured if any birds ventured out, they’d get cold feet, literally.
We left, and came back in the late afternoon, and could hear the guineas shrieking from the driveway. Not that that’s unusual, but it was unusually sustained. So I promptly walked out to see what they’d got into now. There was a guinea, roosted up in a scrappy alder tree. I called HW to bring his phone and see this.
Her first day out. Since the guineas were little chicks, they’ve lived in the greenhouse.
She was quite comfortable, settling in for a long stay. The others in the greenhouse were going off like fire alarms We aren’t together! WE AREN’T TOGETHER!
I disturbed her out of the tree and herded her along the wall of the greenhouse and she happily darted back inside. That’s when I noticed, following her and her tracks in the snow, that there weren’t any departing tracks. She must have flown straight out of the door, and flown without landing anywhere, into the tree.
Ever since I constructed elaborate toad mansions under my parents’ back deck for the itinerant toads of Ontario as a child, there is little that pleases me more than an animal inspecting something I made for them, deciding This is alright, and using it! Sometimes there would be a toad using the pool, or the planter pot “cave”. Yessss.
One night! And the guineas have decided they live on their coop! I’m so pleased. All of them, lined up on the rim. It’s probably only because it’s about 2 inches higher than the header of the door (by design), but I’ll take it. On vs in – close enough. We’ll work up to “in”.
All of them went up there on their own. They started out on the roof, but after dark, there they were.
I’m starting to worry about the guineas sleeping out “loose” in the greenhouse. The hens are all secured at night in their respective coops, but the guineas are not safe, should a weasel come in, and now the GH is breached with multiple tunnels, one easily could.
The guineas have a collective mind of their own though, choosing different places to sleep every night. They used to like snuggling between the hay bales and the plastic, or perching on the top of the open screen door, which is funny. They’ve just moved up one better though, and are roosting on the top of the door header.
It’s funny, approaching the GH and seeing their little shadowy silhouettes above the door in the dusk. There were only four the first night! I went in to shut the coops wondering if one was lost (a constant fear). She was fine. She was pacing along the roof’s edge of the layers’ coop, the nearest high point, trying and failing to muster up the bird courage to flap up and join the others.
I waited awhile, as it got darker, before I intervened. I walked right up to her, smoothly reached out and grabbed her by the legs. How well this went surprised both of us. She eep-ed once and wobbled a little to get her balance as I readjusted her to stand on my palm, and I lifted her up almost level with the others (I’m a bird elevator). She stood there for many seconds before she took the 6 inch hop. After that night she’s made it up on her own. We take the opportunity to pet them at night, which they do not love, shuffling nervously and squeezing together. But I think it’s good for them.
So I built them a house.
I put it on top of the straw bales for their examination (the layer hens are the most curious and adventurous of the bunch).
And then I put it on legs.
Knowing they want to be at the highest point in the room, it’s up in the air. In fact, I won’t be able to take it out of the GH without taking the legs off, so…it’s either going to stay in the GH forever, or dismantling it is, to move their coop outside.
My big idea is to get them to roost IN the coop every night, and then in the summer they will continue to sleep in the coop, instead of the trees, where I can shut the door and they will be safe.
That’s my big idea. Chances are good that the guineas have other ideas.
The first night, HW moved them from the header to the coop. They were unimpressed and jumped up to perch on the top edge. That’s ok with me. Sleeping on their coop is a good start. Maybe when it gets colder they’ll have more interest in huddling.
It has a protruding stick so that they can fly to it and then shuffle inside. The roof is partial because I don’t have a piece of plywood the right size handy, so I set some scrap on it. No door yet either. That can come after they sleep in it.