Tag Archives: free range

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.

The five aren’t afraid of bees

The famous five in fact, love to rummage around around the hives, and jump up on them.That is the back of the hive, but they rummage equally well in the front.   They go underneath.  I’ve seen one jump up on the bee door closure stick.Meeting behind Pansy building!  (My hives are plumb; the camera is tipped)

I’ve thought one would get stung, and that would be over, but no.  It’s always just little tribe.  They have the place to themselves.

An experiment in chick freedom

Ursa Minor was protesting the confines of the chickery, so I tried something.  I let all the moms and chicks loose.  This is not rain day, these are the tiny chicks in their first few days of life, that are typically in chickeries in the greenhouse (warm and dry), before they go out to chickeries on grass for a few days, before they run wild with their moms (a staged transition to free-range).So I propped up the chickeries so they could leave, but still get back in their familiar box.  Clever stayed in for hours. Ursa shot out and within a minute, was demonstrating hole digging in the tomatoes. Hers are the smallest chicks too.  The others have an edge by a couple days or at least some hours.  But she’s a real go-getter.No time to lose!  I’ve done this before.  Can’t waste a minute with early chickhood education!Thinking about it. Domino’s thinking harder about it.     Oh!  Big moves!  This is the cost of chickens on the loose.  The danger to low hanging fruit.  It’s negligible.I think I see a tomato right now.

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.

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.

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).

Chick freedom day

Feisty and her chicks liberated themselves today.  They usually let me know when they’re ready for the big world by starting to leak out.  Thing is, Foxy’s chicks are days older, and they weren’t the ones to start getting out.Once Feisty was out and about though, Foxy got excited.One has such beautiful wings. Who, me?

I helped them out by lifting up the side of the chickery, and they started leaking out.  One.  Two. Threeand four. No, I’m back in.All out.  First day totally at large is a big day.  They drew some onlookers too.