Tag Archives: free range

Full mudface

Finally some rain!    The pigs, who are usually muddy to the eyes, are today muddy to the ears.  They look funny, with their eyes cleanish in the full muddy cones of their faces.By afternoon they had gleefully mudded the whole rest of their bodies until they had single cleanish strips only along their spines.One of the pigs has a predilection for bringing one or more of their rubber bowls into their house.  Sometimes all three are in there, sometimes stacked.   I’ve read that pigs use their bowls as toys if you leave them in their pen after dinner, but these are the first pigs to have played with their bowls.  Here one pig has just dragged one bowl out from under the other pig, and dumped some of it.  Every morning they play food bowl duck duck goose.   They start all with their own bowl, then one inevitably goes to the next pig. You got something better in there?  The first pig exits, and instead of going to the vacant bowl, goes to the next pig’s bowl. What are you eating?  Same thing?  I think I’ll try yours.  That pig goes to the empty bowl and…they do it all over again, every few mouthfuls.

Pigs first move

(David Attenborough voice)

After the new enclosure has been prepared for these lucky piglets, the fence is parted, allowing access to the abundant unspoiled greenery this species thrives upon.But how long will it take them to discover their new freedom?

Their attendant retrieves the food bowls they are familiar with and places them in plain view just beyond the fence opening, filling them with fresh food.The young pigs observe these proceedings with interest, but from a distance.  They are agitated by the presence of the human, and grunt with suspicion. 

As the human withdraws, curiosity and hunger overcome their trepidation, and one pig tentatively leads the way over the threshold!  Its sibling, still  visibly anxious, follows soon after.  To the boldest pig goes the spoils!



All you need in a heat wave is a pine tree

Because of the crazy (now four) days of heat, I’ve been releasing all the birds, so that they can manage their own needs, and won’t ever possibly be trapped without water.  The Silkies move no more than 4 feet, piling up under the pine tree they’re under anyway.

Some of them are panting, and some hold their feet wide and wings out flat like airplanes for a draft under their wings, but they’ve been just fine.  There’s a stiff breeze, and under the pine tree, it’s quite cool.  All they need is for the drinks to keep coming.  I come around checking on them, worried, and they just look at me.  What?  We don’t need anything.  Unless you’ve got snacks?

I check on the broodies, but they’re never panting.  It’s quite temperate by the door of the GH when there’s some wind.  It’s me that is ready for this heat to be over.  But no, two more days of this.  An overnight low of room temperature.  Sheesh.It turns out that Apples and Sprout (Sprout has made a total recovery from the broken leg– not even the bump remains) prefer the other chickery, as do the first chicks.  Conveniently, Perchick etc are out of there in seconds in the morning.

These are the first chicks of the year, and their mother on the box(airplane-winged). (I always, always, need more name suggestions – so many important chickens remain unnamed.  Maybe I can auction naming rights, like newly discovered stars ).  I’m kidding.

There’s one rooster that gets stuck in Apples’ chickery, not ever dipping his head low enough to see the way out, or jumping over.  He’s a bit dim.I suppose we should expect this of Perchick.There are other pine trees too, several of them used as bird oases.  Perchick’s chicks disappear in the jungle of weeds.  That must be very cool, like us in an evergreen canopy.Her chicks are so bold and self-assured.  Adorable.


Release day for Perchick etc

Slow release…First I propped up the side of the chickery with a rock;  the chicks started leaking out immediately.They could also get out over the top. There she goes – Perchick over the top.

Mom, you’re not going to believe this!
And … everyone’s out.

But wait –

I’m not ready to commit!

a holdout. Chickens as they were meant to be.

What’s all this?

Oh, here comes another hen, investigating. They figured out what food pans are for. And met the guinea. This one’s very independent, often apart.  Probably a rooster. Chick heaven.

Cream Puff the Fierce and the free chicks

Cream Puff was a misnomer.  Well, the Puff part was accurate, she spends most of her time puffed up in a rage these days, with her tail flared out.  But the cream is all gone.  She used to be jumpy, anxious, shy, the first to run shrieking out of the coop when you lift the lid.  Now, she moves like a tank, grumbling.  Ok, I’ll move, but I think you should move first.  She was the one initially completely freaked out by her own broodiness.

Now there are two parties that get admission to the greenhouse in the evening: the one guinea (I just love him. I need to get him some guinea girlfriends), and Cream Puff etc.  I open the door and she growls all the way in the door, all the etc hopping in behind her, and then she goes straight to her tomato corner for bed.

In the morning I have to shoo them out.Hen with 4 chicks following through tomato plants

Hen with one chick following
Oops, one got left behind, Mom came back to collect
Out the door, now
Hen and chicks jumping over door step
Turkey Mom
Black chick on door threshold following hen
This one’s always late
Hen sitting on chicks with two eating
Not everyone is warm enough to come out and eat

I can’t get too attached.  I think I’m going to let this brood go to a new home, and Cream Puff will go with them until they don’t need her any more.  I have more chicks on the way – two little Silkie broodies in the covered wagons, both being good as gold on their eggs.

Cream Puff the Fierce isn’t the friendliest ambassador, but maybe better than her sister, Perchick the Heat-seeking Beak.


The crippled chick is doing very well.  She’s using her foot but not bearing weight on it, and it very active, but still rests a lot.Very active.  I don’t know how she got out, but I think she went over the top.  Apples feels like perching today.

Cream Puff released herself today.  A little early, but the chicks are managing just fine.

I don’t even know how she got out;  there was a chicken wire lid on her, but all of a sudden, she was prowling around in her turkey pose, outside the chickery.  We don’t call her Cream Puff the Fierce for nothing; I didn’t even try to catch her, I just let her chicks out.She’s really attached to her turkey shape.  She spends most of her time puffed up, with her neck ruffled and tail spread.  It was impeding her ability to give scratching lessons.  She’d deflate to scratch, puff up again.  She’s funny.  She’s got a real chip on her shoulder. She can’t even rest without puffing. This is my favorite little chick, with a white dot on top of her head.

Spring chicks

The chicks are all alive, even the little half size yellow chick, but there’s been no late hatchings.  That’s a pretty poor hatch rate – 12 live chicks out of 23 eggs under two hens.  The 13th was unlucky.   But that is a dozen bright new little lives, which is wonderful.  Maybe not all the eggs were fertile, or the late frosts we got made it too cold for them.Chick going under mama hen

I’m coming in there

The other chicks are still in the chickery.  Usually they start to break out, which lets me know it’s time for them to be at large, but so far, they are all staying inside, although they could fly right out.Silkie hen with chicks outdoorsThe little black “runt” of this clutch is catching up with the others.

And the oldest chicks, well: They decided to dust bathe at the bottom of the ramp, in the smallest dust bowl ever.

I’m not getting up

These two blip in and out of Silkieland at will, as do some of the other Silkies, since they can slip under the fence if they want.

For these chicks, the coop is the safe house, so they sprint up the ramp if there’s any strange noises or shadows or surprises.  It’s funny.

2018 chicks so far: 18


Chickens in trees

And otherwise being funny:I’d like to call this meeting to order…. They sure love their pine tree.

Yesterday was rainy.  A good soaking, the kind where the water table seems to rise to the surface of the earth.  My GH eavestrough is working (first rain test), and the tank was filling faster than the tap was running inside.  The Silkies had hairdos, the way they get when their heads get wet.  Most were huddled grumpily under their rain tents, but there were a few brave ones wandering about.  The wet chicken gets the worm.

The guinea solution

I’m so pleased to have sorted out the guineas.

I’ve tried so much.  Building them a sky coop

well come to think of it that’s about it.  And giving them roosting apparatuses, like the laundry rack.

They’ve tried lots of things.  Roosting on the sky coop, roosting on top of the greenhouse, roosting in the trees, and roosting on my apparatuses, like the laundry rack.  They are choosy, and illogical, and stubborn.

But I’ve got it.  They are accustomed now to living in the greenhouse all winter, and they have their stick swings where they sleep.  So I’m letting them continue to use the GH in the summer.

In a reversal of form, at night when the chickens get locked up for their safety, the guineas get let into the greenhouse.  The GH which is off limits to all unrestrained chickens, because they would unleash devastation in minutes.  And have.

Not so the guineas.  They’re different.  They don’t do the so entertaining but v. destructive chicken scratch dance.   And they have different tastes.  I wasn’t 100% sure about the guineas around the baby tomato and cucumber plants, but I thought maybe I could just trust them, and cautiously tested my theory.

The guineas use a chicken door that I open at night just as I close the chickens.  The chickens all go to bed before the guineas do.  The guineas hop in, file down the aisle, and fly up to their roost.  They’re very content about it.  I leave the door open and they let themselves out in the morning before I come out for the hens.  It’s working!

The big test was the pepper plants.  I was out early the first morning, crouched watching them secretly through the opposite chicken door.  They flew down from their roost, milled around, gave the peppers a thorough visual inspection (Something new here!), and left, following the leader out their door.  Success!  Awesome.  Before long, the starts will be too big to harm anyway,

This should reduce their mortality rate this summer.  Guineas have a way of kicking the bucket in frequent, creative ways.  They make up for this tendency by producing vast clutches of keets when they reproduce.  It evens out.

I only have three birds now.  I gave half my guineas away some weeks ago, and then a few days ago, I came home late for the magic moment to let them inside.  Finding their door shut, they had resorted to flying up on top of the greenhouse.  It was cute when they did this last year, until the owls discovered the buffet.

I had to throw my hat at them until they flew down and scampered inside.  Oh, door’s open now!  But there were only three.   Was the third lost, bedded down in the field, in some brush?  The light was very dim, and I’m looking around the field, and I see it, like a grey rock as usual, but it’s still… stone dead.  And cold, dead in the afternoon.  No injury.  Another mystery death.  It was one of the cocks.  The remaining three seem perfectly content together.  Any day the hens will fail to show up at bedtime and there will be just the male coming home to roost for a few weeks.

I really threw them for a loop last night.  We got a frost, and anticipating same, I covered the four rows planted in sensitive stuff with row cover.

Wow, the guineas could hardly get down the aisle for staring, tiptoeing along, heads low and necks at full extension, suspicious of the strange white stuff.  And more, they needed herding out in the morning, they were so freaked out by it, not wanting to step on it and flying back and forth across the greenhouse, afraid to land.  Happily for their nerves, the long term forecast is saying a week til the next frost, if that forecast holds.

Final notice eviction

Today was transplant day in the greenhouse, so the chickens were officially OUT.  They took it pretty well.  I expected sad puppy at the door behaviour, but they have spent enough time in transition that they were pretty content outdoors.

However, the forecasted 1mm of rain was a bit more than that, and earlier, so just like last year, transplant/eviction day was a big rain day (complete with  thunder).

So I spent the morning running around hastily throwing up rain and wind shelters for these birds that haven’t seen the elements in months to hide under.   The big birds are all just fine in rain, but Silkies don’t fare so well when they get wet, the little hair chickens. After this hasty contriving I got the three fowl weather hen tents out of mothball and repaired them and put them back in action too.  They are quite effective.  Just as attractive.  Nailed that tent city esthetic. I even put the converted chickery in the mix, and they loved investigating that (finally! we get to see inside!), but didn’t shelter in it.  The stock tank hay bale cave was a hit.

The rain came and went, and as it let up, the hens would disperse into the grass and surroundings, and then the rain would start drumming down again and all at once, you’d see them on the run, (even the guineas) legging it back to get under some kind of roof, where they’d crowd together, with no necks, quietly waiting.

After that, I brought my camera into the greenhouse for transplanting, (57 tomatoes – cue Heinz jokes) and completely failed to take any pictures at all!  Next round.   There’s more to plant.