The snow is thin and light and perfect for showing the tracks of hopping song birds. Bird crop circles. Why the interest in these small stumps? (view from our upper deck) The Juncos are a mystery. They like to go under our house. They even fly in, zooming under the window, and their footprints tell a story of great interest in the space under our house.
Why? We have only two theories. That they are getting grit from the bare dirt under the house for their little bird gizzards, or that they are taking seeds under there with them, to eat them where they are not standing in the snow. And why just the Juncos?
Meanwhile in the GH, work has started on the dirt bath bale. They are secretive about it though, almost as though they think they’re being naughty, and I haven’t caught anyone in the act.Except this guinea. Just leaving! So it might be the guineas.But it’s getting hollowed out.
Credit to the Chicken Chick – a recent post said to give hens a wading pool in the winter with peat moss. I thought Hey, I have one of those!
First step, introduction of the pool:Some curiosity. Then, the potting soil. All the hens did ring a rosy around it- What’s this? I’ll let them take that apart themselves. I have to say, I thought there’d be a hen on top of that in seconds, but interest was muted. I expect the top of that will get hollowed out until there’s a chicken wallowing in the top of the bag and the pool is full of chickens.
Stay tuned. Hilarity may ensue.
Meanwhile, back in the old dust bath...The hens are getting worked up about another hot bath.And then, a surprise. First one claiming space, is the keet (it’s in there, but hard to see).What!? How does the keet pull rank? Dibs dirt bath! The keet was the first one in, with a hen, and then pretty much the whole room cycled through it.
The hens and guineas hardly interact…until there’s a dirt bath!Later, when the queue got shorter….
Today I gave the hens a warm dirt bath, and it was the biggest event of the new year.
So if your page takes a while to load, it’s because there’s 30 pictures, but they’re funny!I had the metal fridge drawer, aka dirt bathtub, on the woodstove for a few days, yes, full of mud. The dirt wasn’t completely dried out to dust, but it was warm. Dirt holds heat well.I delivered it, turned around to minister to some other chickens, and turned around to see the first hen standing in the earth with a look coming over her face. Neck disappearing, head sinking, eyes closing, and then lowering herself into the dirt.
It was jean jacket, actually, first in, with the hot bath expression coming over her face.
Then it was a riot of interest, with all the hens cycling by, test pecking, and trying to take a turn. A faint mist of steam rose from the dirt bath, and the hens – it was like they were melting, eyes closed, faces down in the pan. Flopping around and self- agitating like a washing machine drum. Jean jacket is still in there, fiercely protecting her end of the tub.
Later on, I saw a Brahma in there alone, so presumably Jean Jacket eventually had her toes wrinkle up, or something, and got out so more birds could get a turn.
So bath day was a huge hit.
They can, and do, dig divots in the floor anytime and writhe around in them, but I guess the warm and drier earth was especially exciting.
At the beginning of the winter when the chickens were first incarcerated in the greenhouse for the season, we prepared some bird baths.
Inspired by my neighbour, who brings warm (room temperature) sand from her house to the hen house (hot bath!), I put a bunch of mud on the woodstove to heat up.
I shoveled the mud out of a couple of popular summer-time hen bathing holes, where, when it wasn’t soaking wet, it was fine dust. The old style metal crisper trays were perfect for heating on the wood stove.
It took days to dehydrate the dirt. It cracked like the desert, made little popping volcano vents, and then we’d break it up and cook it some more. HW stirred it assiduously, raving about how much those lucky birds were going to enjoy these baths, and pronouncing it not yet ready, day after day.
Finally, the bird baths- heavy with warm, finely stirred, premium dirt- went out to the greenhouse. I was looking forward to seeing the birds enjoy them, too, probably in the lazy, sunny, afternoon. I expected to hear excited clucking, to find two hens and the oversized rooster jammed in one bin at once and overflowing the sides, legs sticking out in odd directions….
and I never saw them. Not one single solitary sighting of a chicken getting her dirt bath on.
They were definitely using it. They were using it with vigour. There was a dirt radius around each bin. Feathers in the dirt. Week by week, the level in each bin went down. Every time a chicken bathes, she covers herself thoroughly with dirt, then gets up, walks out, and shakes herself off like a dog, making a Pigpen puff of dust. This slowly erodes the dirt capital.
Months passed. Then last week, I caught a brown hen in the bath! I crept back from the door, went for my camera, and of course, she was finished her ablutions by the time I got back with it. One sighting in months – the odds were poor that I’d ever catch another.
But I did! I didn’t waste time going for my camera but used my damaged phone – a sighting!