Tag Archives: free range

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Two coops in

2.5 coops.  Chris and Cream Puff are in too, in their personal size coop. It’s a big mess, the coops are just barely in the door, but I’m going to reorganize a bit, and there are a lot of strings to come down.  Oh, the birds are in heaven.  The scritching, the tomatoes, the dust baths!  They’ve been wanting into the greenhouse all summer.   It’s warm, and they were so happy all day bathing and lounging.No matter how big they are.  HW deadpans “Yeah, that’ll last until about lunchtime.  ‘Let us out of here!'”

There’s work to be done to keep them entertained – an outdoor courtyard, a swimming pool, and some structures.  A hay bale is a good standby.I have long neck!I put the seven infant Silkies into the Silkie coop with their moms.  I figured they would stay with their moms.  I did not figure that they would pour right through the grill and proceed to run all over the greenhouse by themselves, tiny little things, big chicken feet everywhere.  This is what we do!  Their mom was frantic at the fence.  Get back here!  She calmed down in time, they came and went when they wanted a warming, and the Colonel immediately took ownership of the little guys, who stayed out most of the day.  They seemed very confident and happy to play with all the other chickens.Here’s one getting involved with the teenagers dustbathing. Three of them getting up in the dust bathing business.I got a tomato!

There are lots of tomatoes still hanging, tumbling off frequently.  That keeps things interesting. Happy, safe little chickens.  In a week early.  One coop to go!

Mass escape

We’ve had a lot of rain in a week and a bit.  The ground is soft and muddy everywhere, and that makes the electric fence easy to knock over.

The pigs escaped after their supper yesterday, an hour before dark.  I thought I heard them snorting around in the woods by the house, and I assumed that they would be bedding down and we’d see them in the morning.  Boy was I wrong.

They had wandered nearly a kilometer away, and there was a grand nighttime pig drive, our neighbour herding them down the road towards us in a side by side, Hugh rattling a bucket of feed that they ignored, and me sprinting back and forth to keep them on the road.

They were so tired and cranky, all they wanted to do was lie down, so the hardest part was the final bit through the brushy orchard and field, where they were separating, circling back, and flopping down anywhere they could.  What a miserable rodeo.  Then we had another torrential downpour overnight.

This morning we moved their house onto dry land (they root, it rains, it becomes a mud hole, I move them) and moved their territory. After breakfast and a cursory exploration of this week’s ground to churn up (pleased oinking), they went in their house to make a nest (more pleased oinking), and passed out They’re going to sleep real well after that big adventure.  We are planning to take one of the three out tomorrow.What a night.  You can’t even.

No more Inky

 Inky is gone.  She wasn’t in her tree and I searched, and  found a half dozen black and iridescent green feathers. I’m heartbroken, and I’ve already been having a hard few weeks.  I want to get out of chickens, because it hurts too much.  I can’t protect them 100% and let them range.  It’s captivity, or risk.  It’s not fair though, it’s like they know which are my favorites, and get the special ones first.  Inky!   In the evening now I’m opening up the greenhouse adjunct garden, where only some root veggies remain, so that they will go in there for the last hour before bedtime and maybe be a little more protected from snatching by the fence.  The guineas were so excited about this access that they stayed out extra late.  In fact, they all went up to roost twice and came back down and  ran back out for some more rummaging.   This one still in the greenhouse:Where’d everyone go?  I thought we were going to bed.

Guinea spa

I heard the musical little sounds of the guineas approaching the house (doesn’t happen especially often), so I peeped out.

They were going for the bath!  There’s a spot right by the trail where I was weeding out buckthorn, and the birds have decided that that’s the optimum dust bathing locale.  Now there’s all divots and feathers. The guineas came in for the bath as purposefully as if they had little towels over their shoulders.  It was their specific destination.

I went out to get pictures (all the keets tossing up a storm of dirt), and I felt like the paparazzi sneaking through the bushes, wishing I had a longer lens.

I see you there

Galahad is hard to fool.He let me get closer though.

Don’t think I’m not keeping an eye on you there, creepin in the bushes.

The keets have passed their peak cute.  They are entering the small turkey phase.  Scraggly necks, heads balding, and the fleshy bits that grow on their faces are starting to develop.Their behavior and mannerisms are still super cute.   And still bright orange feet, although dark patches are coming in.Galahad is rightfully proud.  He has kept them all alive and well, and they are model guineas.   He’s a truly outstanding avian parent.They are very musical, the sounds they make.  Also very NOT musical, when they’re in a certain frame of mind, and their kind is famous for that.  It only took three generations of coddled guineas living here in order to get a non-neurotic batch of comfortable, quiet ones.Vigorous dirt bathing. Oh, now here come the chickens horning in.   It’s like, just when you’ve got the hot tub to yourself, ten college kids show up at the pool.Oh, bathing?  What a great idea.  Don’t mind if I do.  I’ll just, excuse me,  I’ll just… get in right here, if you don’t mind,  just pushing over a bit? Back to looking like rocks.  There’s Cheeks sporting her jacket.  She’s breaking it in.  It’s working though, the simple design is keeping the right places covered. And… there they go. We’re done here. ‘scuse me.If we could just get by ya here.And, there they go.  Back to the greenhouse area.   That happened so fast that little brown rooster hasn’t moved. What was that just happened!?The chickens don’t always congregate by the deck, they don’t even show up to the house daily, but when they do, I love it.  They come in a drove, and sprawl out, more like they’re visiting and comfortable here than that they’re rabid for handouts.  It’s nice and safe by the house for them, so I’m glad they do. They love those sawhorses.  Those’ll go in the greenhouse this winter for them

 

We lounge hard

Chickens do an awful lot of lounging.  They lounge under trees, in the sun, lots of time on the paths, and in dust baths.  Their favorite seems to be dappled shade.

Big group lounge under a secondary pine tree.Early post-breakfast perching is common.Big dust bath near the house. Barred & Brahma lounging.The birds have this odd tendency to sort themselves out by colours, like laundry.  The darks.The lights/colours.

There’s some big boys emerging out of the tweens.

It’s adorable how much they cuddle.  They lean on each other, pile up, stretch out their legs, and when they’re young, they crawl under each other’s necks like going under a mama.

Epic pig move

The pigs got another big move yesterday.  And they’re acting like they did all the work.  The space they have with the two strands of fence is vast (not literally, but it seems pretty vast, and it’s plenty big enough for them to get totally concealed).  I walk around looking for them and it’s like Wild Safari.  Can you see them?  Is that something moving over there?Well, there’s a spot where pigs have been.I’m not moving.  Maybe my eyelid. One lazy pig.Spot the pig?  The other two are in there.