It was supposed to be a nice day, so Mom and the Oreos (Thanks for naming them, Mom) got to move outside! I transplanted the chickery from the arid hard packed environment of the greenhouse, where they spent a couple days, to the outdoors it was designed for.
Mom was so excited about grass – I can believe it- she was broody for so long she´d probably forgotten about grass – that when I lowered her into place she didn´t take a single step, just started gobbling grass where I set her.
Then the roosters came. The two remaining “exile” roosters, that stay apart from the main flock, and continue to sleep in the small coop, alone (I´m waiting for an opportunity to rehome them), lost no time discovering the new mama.
They made fools of themselves staring longingly through the mesh and giving some dancing performances.
I don´t get it myself, but she´s always been very popular.
They were resoundingly ignored by the object of their attention, but hovered around devotedly all day.
Will it rain or won´t it? Foggy, misty day – the chickery gets a rain cape.
When evening fell and mama settled down for the night, she and the Oreos got airlifted into a bucket to go in the warmer greenhouse for the night.
She was not impressed. I´ve never used a bucket before. The bucket is not very roomy, but it was handy (I got her a box tonight).
There´s been a full scale cooporate takeover. The Colonel has moved in, and brought his ladies with him.
There´s been a couple Silkie hens that decisively moved in with the big girls weeks ago, but HW noticed the Colonel exiting the layer coop in the morning, and told me he suspected a relocation.
I think, because of the rain the last few days, that the Silkies couldn´t be bothered to walk the 40 feet back to their own coop, and just went up the proximate ramp.
The flocks hang out surprisingly intimately all day, piled up in the same dirt bowls, eating together, laying eggs in each other´s coops, and when it rains, huddled shoulder to shoulder under the nearest coop with their shoulders hunched up (the guineas too). I LOVE this! I´m so happy they get along.
I´m over the moon that since the integration of the flocks this winter and their coexistence in the greenhouse, that I can retire the tiresome, rickety Silkie un-“tractor”, and all the birds are fully free again. What they do with their freedom is sometimes unexpected, and usually entertaining.
Sometimes a name alights on a being like a hawk landing on a fencepost. Here to stay. The rooster formerly known as Snowball (we do our best, until their real name arrives), is now irrevocably, unquestionably, the Colonel.
The Colonel is the Big Boss of All the Chickens around here, ruthlessly laying down the law and keeping Jacques in line (that´s the big Copper Maran rooster at the back of the coop), despite Jacques being about 5 times his size. This was very unexpected.
Any human visitors think it´s absolutely hilarious when I point out the big boss. They point; that guy? The pint sized pompom? That big rooster is scared of HIM? No way! Then they are usually treated to an exhibition – the Colonel marching authoritatively towards the giant, showy rooster who dared to come too close, and Jacques the Giant hastily looking for somewhere else to be.
Jacques gets no respect. The Colonel keeps him looking over his shoulder. HW calls him a punk. He´s still growing into his leadership role, I think. He´s pretty good with his hens, unselfish and a food announcer; they like him, but he can´t count, and doesn´t organize them very well; they scatter, and scattering is not good for chicken longevity. Also, he attacks me daily. I whack him with sticks and throw water on him; he has a short memory. The Colonel doesn´t hesitate to rescue me, which is nice, but feels like the wrong order of things.
The Colonel keeps track of eleven Silkie hens, and they typically flow in a big group without stragglers (It´s awesome to observe chickens in as free a state as possible- they have a culture, and it evolves; they are in charge, and I serve them, with shelter, food, and evening security lockup). The Colonel has one young protege, a blond rooster that rolls with the big flock, but there are four more roosters that are exiles and just huddle at a distance. These poor roosters are due for rehoming – they´re on Kijiji. They´re quite gorgeous, and they´ll make great rooster-leaders if they get a chance.
The oinkers are growing! They still have long legs, and act like dogs in ways. They stretch first thing out of bed, they jump around when they’re excited, and they love to run.
Seeing how much they love to run makes me sad about all the pigs that are confined in quarters barely large enough for them to turn around, where their only function is to eat and grow fat. Clearly lethargy is not their natural state.
They love a good sprint. They celebrate the coming of food by an exuberant oinking lap around their enclosure, usually with a figure eight through and around their house. They’re very athletic pigs.
HW loves the pigs (he doesn’t seem to have any conflict with adoring them and having to kill them later). He’s disappointed when he comes home from work and I’ve already fed them (so I tend to wait). Either way, he visits them while he’s still in his work clothes, and then he comes in saying something like “Those oinkers are funny! I was sitting in their house with them and…”
You were what?
He’s been actively trying to tame them. We can do anything to them while they’re eating; Spots tolerates HW petting her at other times, but A.P. won’t stand for it. He also snorts at them, although I’ve told him he’s probably saying something insulting in their language. They love it though, they immediately get louder and oink back when HW comes down the trail, snorting. He’s kind of good at it.
Yesterday his story was: “I was out there chasing those oinkers around… ” (You were what?!) “They love it! They know that it´s play, because as soon as I stop, they run up to me. But they LOVE to run. Then when I left I looked back and one pig was flopped out on the ground, legs out – no, not in their house, just in the mud – then she got up, walked in a circle, and flopped down again – she was all tuckered out!”
So HW plays games with the pigs too. I haven’t even witnessed him sitting in their house or playing chase, let alone when I had a camera. But I can hope.
The introduction of two bowls (recycling the dog bowls):
It worked perfectly, exactly like I expected.
Oh, you’ve got something good over there? I wants it.
One pig gets jealous and pushes the other off her bowl.
Displaced pig coolly walks around to the vacant bowl.
Both are eating constantly, but quite sure the other bowl is better.
I have a long-running ad on Kijiji to divest of Silkie roosters, rather than axe them, and sometimes I sell hens and eggs. Keeping the flock manageable.
I think it´s simply hilarious to put them in EGGS boxes. No one else thinks it’s quite so funny. “It’s like the chicken and the eggs…which came first? The eggs are going to come out of the box, but not right away?… Oh never mind”. Also it´s like the Boxtrolls.
Anyway, two hens went for a long drive (they made hardly a peep), and got a major lifestyle upgrade. I got a text late in the day reporting that the hens had loved every minute of a shampoo and warm blowdry (I bet they did. I bet they’re simply gawgeous. ), and they also enjoy being held and petted. We’re not on the farm any more, Dorothy. They’re probably hoping I forget to pick them up from this spa weekend. It´s the bouff I´ve always dreamed of! I’ve always wanted a good blowout. I can´t even imagine how fluffy they got.
I did choose two of the shyest, most anxious and retiring chickens, because I had a feeling they were going somewhere to be pets, and they could appreciate the lifestyle upgrade. I didn’t know it was going to be a spa package upgrade.
Coming soon to a neighbourhood near you: purse chickens.
I dumped the pigs’ muddy water out into a handy trench they´d dug right by their house. I am so grateful that they have not yet learned how joyous it is to dump their water out themselves, at which point we have to take measures to prevent them from doing it. So far they´ve been very restrained and let us do it for them.
Each pig took a jubilant flop into the mud, one side, the other, and then Hey it´s my turn, the other pig.
They didn´t linger. They came up evenly coated with mud, glistening except for one dry strip down the middle of the back, indistinguishable from the other. No socks, no blazes. Just mud.
By the time I got my camera, they had moved on to other activities, like scratching on a cutoff tree.
The piglets are settling in, and getting a little friendlier.
They are kind of like dogs in some ways. They stretch out their back legs behind them when they first get up, wag their tails, enjoy a good sprint, even do some barking, which sounds like whooping cough.
These pigs are so dynamic, I can’t believe the difference from the 2014 pink pigs. They are not lazy or laidback. They express themselves with a good back and forth sprint the length of their fence, whenever we come out with their food, or a treat. They´re deep into rooting already, and don´t sleep in. They´re up with the chickens.
AP (“my pig”) is pushy (the one with a blaze). AP is bolder. Spots, or Spotty, has more white on her face – her blaze is patchy. She also has white lower eyelashes on her right eye.
They have a big splashy go at the dog bowl.
They have a big wrestle over it, but it seems to come out equal, so we haven´t introduced a second bowl yet.
Joinup! First contact, helped by the prospect of some milk:)
They’ve mastered the art of “looking hungry”, learned that we are the food, and have made a new routine of excited oinking and running around when we come with the scoop. They even approach! I throw the food – (OMG, run away!) they sprint around, and then saunter back to eat. They no longer try to run through the fence, but pull up an inch away.
I was taking pictures through the fence and they came so close (Is that a snack?) I thought they’d touch it. Cute!
They bury themselves in the hay in their palace, sometimes ears showing, sometimes a black back, sometimes nothing.
Then when we come down the trail, they burst up out of bed, look out, and emerge with straw all over their face. Or just the ears pop up, a sentry. Early-warning snack detector.
Once I couldn’t see them at all from outside the fence, and sure they were gone, I started looking for a breach in the fence. Then Boufff! the hay exploded and two pig heads popped up. I went in to fix up their bed (Run away!), but one pig couldn’t resist coming back to see what I was doing in their house. Messing up their bed, obviously. We had it perfect!
They’ve started to tear apart the intact bales that form their windblock/bed. It was a matter of time. We go in and pile the hay back in bed that they’ve pushed out, they rearrange it again. Long as they’re cozy. It’s still cold at night.
I moved the haybale play structure from its former location in the south corner of the greenhouse…
…to the opposite side of the greenhouse.
I have about 9 bales left, that are very dry and falling apart, that I am cycling through the coops as bedding and then to the garden for mulch. While stored in the greenhouse, the bales are providing caves, entertainment, and vantage points for the bored birds. And carbon for the ground.
I dropped one unstrung bale into the middle of the room. There’s little they like more than to take apart a bale of hay. The normally uptight guineas, in a rare moment of repose, used it to cash out in the sunshine, and fell mercifully silent for a good hour.
The haybale move –my every move closely monitored by short attendants – served two purposes. The sitting haybales had kept a big patch of dirt wet and scratchable, so each bale I moved, the hens rushed in behind me to dig. It’s fun to work among the hens, them all up in my business, making interested noises, having their own dramas.
The new play structure was a novelty, therefore highly entertaining to explore.
You know when something is overwhelmingly interesting when ALL the birds fall silent. They’re that busy. Too absorbed to talk about it, to make announcements. Then little burbles of speculation.
All three of the resident breeds explored the new apparatus, hopping up and over it and sidestepping along the high poles, but – I didn’t anticipate this- the Silkies wholly claimed it as their own.
Three dead mice were unearthed, precipitating the inevitable lively mouse run.
After a thorough inspection and finding it pleasing, the Silkie tribe moved in en masse…
and settled in for some hard lounging.
I’m going to move the bales at least once more, and I expect similar excitement and results. In return they will thoroughly distribute a mulch layer in the greenhouse for me.
Outside the snow is falling heavy in thick white flakes. 5-10 cm on its way. Parts of New Brunswick are still without power, eight days after an ice storm that only grazed Nova Scotia.
It made the trees glassy, bent them to thump on the windows, and pruned branches that fell to clutter our paths.
Inside, the hair band is posing:
The big birds are sharing a snack of kale.
This one has figured out how to stand on the kale and rip it apart. As opposed to beating it on the ground. And a novelty snow coneball splat. There’s a few that love eating snow and ice. I know not why.
Egg production is up, and it’s cozy in the greenhouse, but colder temps are coming…