Pig bribery

I’ve got some rowdy pigs.  Specifically, the female.  She’s a bit of a loner, happy to be apart from the boys some of the time, and she doesn’t respect the fence.  She knows how to get under it, rooting under a post (the bottom strand isn’t electrified), and then tossing it up, where it will flop down on her back and she can charge underneath, getting only a modest shock on her thick back.  I haven’t seen her do this all the way through, but I’ve seen her start into the process very deliberately .   I’ve had it.  I’m out of here (I thwarted her) This all started with a mass escape incident, and watching that happen, I knew they’d be ruined on the fence.  I am counting myself very lucky that it only ruined her on the fence.

Using an electric fence on pigs is a delicate agreement.  They agree they will act like they fear the fence, and you agree to believe it will keep them in, when both of you (I think) knows that if they really want, they can go through it.  If this pretence breaks down, then the pigs are “what fence?”, and you can never relax again.  But the electric fence enables them to have a completely different life than they would if you had to build “pig tight” to keep them in, so it’s a good deal for them.  They get a big sward to root and play and run in, and resemble real pigs.

But now, I have a problem pig, and every so often, she goes on walkabout.  She doesn’t go far.  She just goes and knocks over all the chicken waters and licks their trays clean (the chickens alert me to the invasion).  Then I have to pretend to be friendly Aren’t you clever, let’s get a treat (and she runs after me all pleased with herself), when I feel like beating her with a rope.  She’s pretty good about going back in.  See, the good boys who stayed inside the fence are getting a treat, don’t you wish you were in here now?

Hence, bribery.  I’ve taken to surprise feeds of a bucket of apples and garden scraps, to minimize monotonous downtime that could raise exploratory ideas.  Of course, religious punctuality with regular feed time is essential to prevent mutiny.I appear off-schedule (they are surprised, and come rocketing in!)They try to body block to keep choice to themselves. The apples go first, even sour green apples.  Crunch crunch.Four days so far, no escapes.

Chick party in the greenhouse

Rain day!

It did not start well.  The forecast, usually accurate to the hour, was predicting rain starting at 9pm tonight.  At 6am, pat. pat pat. patpatpatpatpat! 

I leapt up.  I needed to give the pigs access to their house.  Yesterday I’d moved their house (thank god!), but I hadn’t cut out the path to reroute the electric fence around it.  Really crappy work that I planned to do today before the rain (plenty of time!), as I was so tired and sore yesterday.  Instead, in the dark before dawn, in the rain, while the pigs watched me impatiently, grunting.  Hey.  It’s raining.  ME:  You’re waterproof, you tyrants.

I got the brush cut out, and the fence patched around it, and they grunted right in.  They just prefer to be in their house in the rain.   I checked the forecast.  It had changed, imagine that.  Yes, it is indeed raining right now.  And it’s now predicted to rain all day.  That means the pigs will spend all day in their house.

Amazingly, I enticed Galahad to go back into the greenhouse.  I figured he’d prefer that, but didn’t think it would work.  I’ve never asked him to go back into the greenhouse during the day.   And I released all the moms and their chicks inside the greenhouse! That’s Foxy, Fiesty, and  Chocolate at large, plus Ursa, Clever and (unnamed) in their chickeries.The chicks wouldn’t have any problems in the rain, but it would be hard on the hens, as soon as the chicks try to use Mom for an umbrella.  Silkies aren’t even water resistant.They were over the moon!  This was the most exciting thing ever, apparently.  Galahad etc weren’t too demonstrative, but content to be inside.  We live here, what’s the big deal?  The chicks and moms acted like they just got heli-dropped into Disneyland.  The cheeping!  The clucking!  The scampering! Oh the places you’ll scratch!  Oh the things you’ll peck!An hour later and they were still centralized on just the first fraction of the greenhouse.

It turned out to be a grey day more than a rain day, and I let Galahad out again for most of the day.  It started coming down again early evening.   The chicks were all late going to bed:)  Best day ever!

cool days, cool Moms

It’s chilly in the mornings.  The chicks are around with their shoulders shrugged up.  The leghorn twins went back in the box.  The cardboard is warmer on the tiny naked feet.

You know what’s really warm on the feet?  Mom. Until she starts walking away – whoa!

Ursa Minor surprised me with chicks this morning.  She had that I’ve got chicks, ya know face.  And then there was all the peeping.Oh!  there’s a little leg, and it’s attached to some black feathers!  Yay, another black one.  Oh, there’s a a whole little butt, already dry and fluffy.

Ursa’s so chill.  She’s all confident.  This is my second brood, you know.  I’m kind of a pro at this. (She is).And there’s a whole chick popped out.  I didn’t disturb them much in the cold morning, but in the afternoon she was trying to start their education in the dark cave of the broodery, so – into the chickery with them.  There are two black ones, and two “spider” marked – that’s how Brown Silkies look when they hatch.  But… I can’t remember if she was on Silkie eggs or full size?  Those chicks look pretty big.  So they might be crosses.  Who knows!  It’s all exciting.

Cream Puff slid into the greenhouse with Galahad last night, and I was chasing her around with a rake, which G was surprisingly unconcerned about.    She knew she wasn’t supposed to be in there, and Galahad knew  that he was.  It didn’t take her long to figure out that she should stick right next to him to not fear the rake, which she did, like glue.  Smart move.  I chased them both out, and she ran squawking back to her boyfriend, while Galahad made a lap of the hen tent and glided back in before she’d hardly turned the corner.   Very smooth.  The keets mostly ignored all of this.

Tonight I comprehended another maneuver of his.  I’ve seen it before and thought he was just being fussy: I come to open the door to admit the keet family to the GH (Galahad periscoping, doesn’t miss anything).  I step back.  G runs up, jumps onto the doorstep looking into the GH.  Keets gather.  I lean or step forward, ready to shut the door behind them as soon as they all…. but no!  He doesn’t  jump in.  Nope. He pops back out, makes a wide meandering lap, though rather fast and urgently, like he’s frustrated, pauses somewhere (today it was under the hen tent), then rushes out and deliberately charges into the GH.  I have been frustrated with this extra phase of bedtime procedures.  Just go to bed!  It’s the same greenhouse it was last night, just go in!

That’s not it though.

I figured it out tonight.  He’s collecting all the keets!  They don’t flow everywhere together like a school of fish, like they used to, these days as they mature and get more independent.  Some are lingering at the grub box, the feed dishes, the water fount.  First he confirms the door is open, and then he does his lap to get their attention.  They snap to and fall in.  Then he pauses for muster – all present?  Then they storm the castle.

He’s the best guinea mom I’ve ever had.  He does everything almost completely silently.  Amazing.  And I hardly see them all day, but they know when mealtime and bedtime is.

Oh, and I shifted the coop drama dynamic in Silkieland.  For two nights, I picked up the two little bitches that want to play bouncer at the top of the ramp, and I held them.  All the other birds went gratefully and peacefully to bed, while I just stood there, holding two hens.  I even walked around and did stuff with one hand, holding them.  They were pretty ok with it (it’s warm; birds usually like being held, they just don’t like the transition- being grabbed).  Then, dead last, I dropped them into the doorway, and shut the gate.  Only problem was the rooster, who was very reluctant to get aboard the ark because he knew these two weren’t in yet.  His job, and therefore identity, is to be last in, first out.  Tonight I had visitors distract me from interfering, and yet, something had shifted over there!  It was quiet and quick, and there were no sentries atop the ramp!  We’ll see if the lesson sticks.  You be good or I’ll hold you!

 

 

Tomato seeds

Pretty colours!  I set up to save seeds from most of the tomato varieties I grew this year.  They’ve each got annotation on size, flavour, and vine behavior (“disobedient”, “excessive suckers”)

Each tub has the ripest, spoiled on the vine where possible fruits, and they’re going to rot down into a soupy mess with a scum of mold on top, yay.  I may not keep them in the house for that.  Last time I was ferment-saving seeds I forgot about them in the camper and they were perfect.  Excellent germination. I’m excited to have learned that tomatoes grow true (yay!), and I’m not daunted that tomatoes require the seeds to be fermented to breach the protective jelly coating they hold around their seeds.  Easy!

What I am daunted by is the fruit flies.  I didn’t realize I was setting up a fruit fly farm.

Another first successful grow:ground cherries!  They’re so delicious, and look like pearly peach berries, in their little paper lanterns.

new chicks

Clever’s chicks made it!  (sort of).  I didn’t expect them to because the eggs were poopy, and that can choke off the exchange of air and humidity to the developing chick.  She rolled one egg away from her a week ago, and it was rotten.  I should have known she knew her other two were alive.

However, one died after hatching.  This is quite rare, for a chick to die after hatching under a mom, and after being alive long enough to dry out and fluff up.   The chick death rate when you’ve got mother hens is very low.  No medicated feed necessary – coccidosis and pasted bum are non-issues (very thankfully).  But it happens. Sad.  She only has one chick now, and that’s not fair, because she was an excellent sitter and I’m sure will be a great mom.  It’s a very noisy chick.  A leghorn, I think.  So they came out of the broodery into a greenhouse chickery (cue dirt bath), and Apples went in (!).  She settled right in, sitting on her eggs.

Then I lifted the lid to feed the other two broodies, and got a big surprise!Hm.  She’s got a dirty butt.

Three quiet little chicks!  Two dominoes!  I was hoping for more Copper Marans.  These will be Inky and Velvet duplicates.  And one leghorn cross. So cute.Did you say something about my butt?

Speaking of Copper Marans, Cleopatra, bio-mom of all the black chicks this year, is pulling a new stunt.  She jumps into Silkieland to lay an egg in their coop.  Cuckoo, cuckoo!  Then she acts like she has no idea how to get out again.  Every day.

OMG I can’t get out!
Oh, right.
Perchable moment

That’s Flash just to the left of the stick on the coop- a rare capture.  S/He’s a little brown keet (a “pearl”), but his first one or two flight feathers are white, so when she extends her wings, or hasn’t folded them back in completely, you see the flash of white.  It’s distinctive.   You can see the white line in this picture.

those feather askew blues

One of Foxy’s (the oldest of the small chicks) chicks has a feather issue today.  This sometimes happens, more often to the Silkies though.  Can you spot it? What?It has little outrigger feathers growing sticking straight out from its shoulders.It’s so funny.  It’s like only two feathers are committed to flying.   They’ll be gone in a couple days.Guineas doing their guinea thing.  They’re growing so fast.Galahad has a feather stuck on his face.  A keet is about to notice and pluck it off for him.  It’s the most beautiful time of year.  Cool enough to want a sweater in the morning, no bugs, beautiful light, endless sunny days.  This is the best time to work (there sure is enough of that).Feisty’s chicks have discovered perching (look next to the trunk for the third pair of legs). Feisty’s not into it, but of course, these chicks are biologically from clan Perchick or Puffcheeks, so they can’t be stopped from climbing trees.  She’s such a good mom, but then, the fiercely protective hens usually are.

Apples and corn

I had the first cob of my corn tonight – ever!  I haven’t been able to grow it before, but next to the greenhouse, it worked.  Bit of corn ear worm,  yuck, but good.

Sometimes the bees spend the night stuck on the sunflower heads. They hang down, sheltering like an umbrella.Apples the house chicken is broody!  I keep almost saying “pregnant”.  Not pregnant.  Sitting on eggs like a perfectly normal hen (how far she’s come)!  Just one of her own.  There was one egg before I thought was hers, and I put it under one of the hens currently sitting.  So there may be an Apples offspring, and an Apples-raised Apples offspring.  But I can’t count my chickens before they hatch.  I really want her chicks, because she’s so sweet and mild.

Tomorrow morning I will give her her own broody box.

 

dirt bath and other shenanigans

Chocolate’s out of the chickery now too.This is great.  All the small chicks with moms are at large, meaning I don’t have to constantly monitor do they have shade, do they have water?  Their moms take care of that now (lots of water options).   Soon enough there will be another round of chicks hatching.She’s diving right into the dirt bath.  There’s two popular spots at the moment, an old pig wallow, and this one under the corner of the hen rain tent, which is a bit of a sauna in the sunshine.   The dirt she’s spraying  is sticking to the condensation on the roof.Guineas  when they’re not aware they’re being watched.

Oh, last night! I went to open the door for guinea bedtime, and I didn’t see them so I hollered Galahad’s name.  I saw him pop out of the woods by the pig fence, quite far away, periscoping.  I’m like “Hello!  Over here!  Yoohoo, I’m here to open the door”, waving,  like over a crowd at an airport.

In the moment, this sort of thing – waving at and calling a bird – feels rather silly.

Galahad launched into the air, as did all the keets behind him, and flew in to me.  A little cloud of keets inbound.  They fluttered down to land at the coop and I stood back for them to scamper through the door of the greenhouse for bedtime.  Thanks, human.  This bird is incredible.  Cotton’s  chicks exploring out of the box.Big pathway pileup.

Perchick became the most recent “wildlife” to hop in the open door of the house, casually jumping up on the doorstep and poking through the screen door to look at me.   Hey.   So, yeah.  Got any snacks?  I was peeling peaches and didn’t get up.    She rummaged through a basket by the door, ignoring my remonstrations, and then casually left.  No snacks.  Chickens haven’t strolled into the house that I know of since the episode with the dried beans last year (maybe they do it all the time when I’m not here).The young teens (the Famous Five/Pufflings) and the tweens have formed an alliance to mount an assault on the bird feeder (there’s nothing in it). Recon complete, moving in.. . ckkk… ground support in place … ckkk… on final approach. .. ckk ….

Foxy and Feisty

Feisty’s a very pretty chicken.  We had a good photo shoot before dusk:If you catch them at the right angle, which isn’t hard to do,  Silkie hens look like they have no eyes at all.

Foxy is irritable.  Her chicks are at that stage where they ignore her until they need her, don’t pay attention, and want to stay up too late. I’ve still no idea how many days/weeks it takes for them to hit these chicken stages of development, like pants, reluctance to go to bed, independence, rooster hero worship, exploration/getting in trouble, and modeling on older chicks, but I recognize the stages in every set of chicks.  They all go through them.

So Foxy is at the grumpy harassed mother stage.  The hens have corresponding stages of development – different degrees of patience and concern and energy.  It evolves from Take me! I will die before you get them! to Enh, I don’t even know them.  Mmm, no, don’t think I’ve ever seen them before.  And it’s mutual.  Although chickens can remain bonded with their “friends” or siblings for life, the attachment to their mother seems to completely vanish in time, which is interesting.

I’ve left one chickery out and propped open as Foxy is conservative and likes to return to the chickery as home base.  She’s in it, squalling for her chicks to come the F to bed.  They’re ignoring her, scrambling in the brush pile.   We’re wild adventure chicks!  They keep up a steady stream of consciousness peeping.  The world is just so interesting.

Eventually she went marching out after them.  If you kids don’t come to bed RIGHT NOW…

Back to Feisty:

I’m asleep… no I’m not!  I’m asleeeep… (that looks so cozy)I’m awake!

It was just a pre-bedtime nap.  She shook them all out and went for a last foraging walk before conveniently ending up in a box tonight.  Found a food dish!

 

Bedtime, and coop cops

Some of them decided to face the other way, for variety.  And two of them decided to have a big pecking fight, on the rail, with one uninvolved keet between them, hunched up low, keeping head down and out of the crossfire raging above him.   So funny.  Peck you!  No, peck you! They’re getting slightly more independent; they scatter wider.   Packing up the three boxes of moms and chicks, to go into their safe house in the greenhouse (everyone goes in a lock box at night for weasel safety), Fiesty’s box was empty.  I found her in the weeds, pretty well concealed.  Daisy’s Silkie chicks are always slipping out of Silkieland, which is fine, but at bedtime, they aren’t so good at remembering where they came out.  Cheep, cheep, cheep!  They run up and down the footboard crying and I have to assist.   Unfortunately, the beautiful silver one isn’t the sharpest tool in this shed.  He’s always the one that runs right past the open door while the other two run in.

She knows I’m coming for her.

Inky.  Inky is gorgeous and very very sweet.  But she is determined that she sleeps in the pine tree.  She’s too sweet to get involved in the night coop drama.  I have two coops with night drama problems now (why!?).  In Alpha coop, it’s Perchick, that posts herself up on top of the ramp like St. Peter.  You get to come in.  No, you’re not invited.  Peck.  (why!!?) I have to get in and sweep her out of the way so the crowd of young chickens milling around can just go to bed already.   Inky skips this and goes straight to the same spot in the pine tree.  But for her safety, I have to pluck her and put her in the coop.

 

In the Silkie coop, there’s two culprit hens.  They sit in the doorway: You shall not pass.  Everyone just wants to go to bed, the chicks are all overtired and crying, making a big racket.  It’s very frustrating.  I take them and put them in the farthest nesting box, but they pop out again and again, like Whack-a-mole.  These two are first on the list to go to a new home (not a euphemism- I do sell and trade birds – I literally can’t keep them all).

Happy about living naturally