Tag Archives: free range

Keet care share

The keets have been around more; they even got walked nearly to the house.  I hear their cheeping like tiny bells (they will grow into klaxons).  They already have dart-and freeze-in-the-grass skills, scratching, dozing, and following skills.  Little beings the size and weight of ping pong balls, walking, eating, pooping, thinking.   They’re so cute I can hardly stand it.  They are already surprisingly independent, with a noticeably larger radius of dispersion than two days ago, and the flock moves faster.  They aren’t obsessively dependent on mom at all, more that it’s important to them to stay with the group.I went out today and found a grey bird  sitting on the chicks in the cool morning.  The white (mother) hen came up nuzzling, like she was checking on her kids under the babysitter.  I thought awww, Galahad’s at it again, sitting on the keets.  Then I realized Galahad, who has been shadowing them the last couple days, was sleeping in the sun behind me.  So who the heck is this co-parenting?!

You guys have complicated relationships. 

Guineas are just SO lovely.  They have a different social system than chickens and it seems very evolved.   They accept the keets as tiny new additions that walk with the flock (reminds me of elephants).  The keets will run to any of them, it seems, and any of them might run and get a left-behind cheeping chick.  The males are super involved in keet care.

They’re so special and interesting that I just put up with the bloody noise.  Even that, though, often means something.  Not always, but often, there’s something they’re trying to say.  Like, visitors are on their way, put some clothes on!  They’ll come to the house together and yell at me, looking at me, then five minutes later someone walks up.  Don’t say we didn’t tell you.The white hen spent some adult time lounging away from the keets today, who were all with someone else.  Then all the birds were doing walkabout together with the keets flowing among their feet.  I felt very “approved of” that they let me stand so close to their pile of chicks.  When I walked right through the group was the first time I got a hint of mom flaring, reminding me of how crazy, insane cobra mom the last guinea mother I had was.  This one is zenned right out.

The other white hen was also around today!  Wolfing down food.  So maybe she’s nearing the end of her sit as well.

I’m looking forward to when she stops leaving to hunker down with them at night, and brings them to the greenhouse for bedtime.  I’ll need another laundry rack.

 

 

OMG KEETS!!!

I went out to feed everyone lunch and got stopped in my tracks by a tumble of new keets!  A whole new cast of characters.  I think there’s 13.  They’re hard to count.  Little white ones and brown ones!

We already have a candidate for the lag-behind

The white guinea hen is back with a hugely successful brood!  I’ve been seeing her at the food trays occasionally the last couple of weeks wolfing down food, at off hours, so I’ve wondered.   I’ve also seen her at the end of the driveway, where I’m pretty sure she nested – the others were making not very covert visitations down there.  That means these little keets have already had one heck of a long walk to get here.It begs the question, are the others ok?  Did they survive the rains and raccoon and other roving predators?  Are two other hens going to roll out of the woods (any day, since they all disappeared at the same time) with a baker’s dozen of keets?Galahad of course, is right at her side, rushing at anyone who thinks they might get close to the keets (which is usually the chicks, who don’t understand why he’s mean all of a sudden).  She gets to be all calm and serenity, with her bulldog security detail. 

OMG, they are so much tinier and more adorable than I even remembered- so small!  Having trouble climbing out of the pot lid:) They do  come out of an egg about the size of a Silkie egg. 

 

Rain risk vs worm reward

The pig house (pig-less this year) is repurposed as a chicken rain shelter, and they LOVE it.  When it’s pelting down, almost the whole flock crowds in there, and the guineas come running in too.

The hens rock the rain pretty hard, but when it gets too heavy they jog for shelter.  Rain makes the worms come up, but they don’t like to get too wet either.  It’s a chicken risk/reward analysis.

Adding the laundry rack was one of my finer brain waves.  It increases capacity and fits snugly in the peak. Won’t tip over.  They use the shelter on sunny days as well.  Some of them just get on a rung after breakfast and spend half the day.   They like to have a nice safe perch for bird-watching.

That laundry rack has seen a lot of functions.  I remember buying it around 15 years ago.  It spent many years merely drying clothes.  Then it was a keet ladder, and now luxury perching, and I imagine it will last quite a while longer.

Or you can have a midday one legged, head-under wing nap under a coop. It’s a rain day!

Chicken play date

Cheeks has been having chaperoned outings.  I carry her out with me and set her down near where I’m working, in the field or the garden, and she moseys around, scratching and eating.

She loves it.  What I expected, was that after a couple of hours, she’d be tired, and willing and ready to be scooped up and carried home for a drink.  I’ve handled her daily for months.  She’s as tame as a chicken could possibly be.No.  Oh, no no no.  No!  Not yet!   Try to grab her and she hits the gas.  Can’t catch me! I’m a wild animal!  She can lead me on a proper merry chase, even with her lame foot.  When you do catch her though, she’s totally fine with being picked up.  The thrill is in the chase.I only look placid.

Today she got a supervised date. (A very brief date).  Speed date, even.  The rooster saw her from a distance, and barreled towards her, and saved his dancing for the afterglow.

She’s been looking forward to a date, based on how loud she shouts through the window when the roosters come to the yard.  And she didn’t make him chase.  Now all her gorgeous eggs won’t go to waste, and I’ll get some little Cheekslings.She also got some time with Perchick, which was adorable.  They spent nearly an hour together.  Perchick and Cheeks are the same age, possibly nestmates,and they behaved exactly like they recognized each other and fell in step like old times.   

Out on the range.

The birds are all out free-ranging again.  They’re so excited!! Mostly out. They are free to come and go, for the last week or two since the snow has been going.

They are so happy!  All the young ones (1-2 yrs) and the guineas spend all day out, pouring out of the greenhouse when I open the doors, popping back in when they get cold or thirsty, then back out for another shift of foraging.

Inside, the older chickens are less adventurous and content to have the dust baths to themselves.  I can’t wait to move out the Silkies, but it will be cold for another week or so.

Friends

These two were out and about alone, one cold day, without a rooster escort, and were all jumpy and guilty, like they knew they were on the lam.

The birds outside are partly PARTY! Excitement and adventure!   And partly attacking their days like they have a job, and they’re showing up to it late.  Serious.  So much to do!There’s something really good over there! They’re vigorously scritching around in the woods everywhere.  Now that they have the space, I can see the little cliques that have formed around each rooster.  Three good ones.

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!