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Archive for the ‘Chickens’ Category

Who could resist

What? That’s not a fawn, you say.

True.

Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me when I encountered the fawn yesterday. So instead of posting relevant photos while I tell the tale, I’m posting photos I’ve been taking since my last posting. We all like a photo or two, I know.

Handsome felow

This fellow was around here for weeks. The females seemed unimpressed, but I bet they are busy sitting on eggs right now.

The girls are not frequent visitor just now. At least not many of them. Today one female arrived at the feeder with three males. The males kept shooing her away, so she, smart turkey, leapt up onto the feeder itself and helped herself from there.

clever turkey

Those are teen-aged guys (I think). Except for the striped bird – that’s one of my hens, chowing down with the turkeys.

So…yesterday I rounded the corner of my house and came upon a beautiful fawn at the end of the drive. She was eating the hostas which I have not yet covered. I immediately froze. She seemed not to be worried about me. She looked up, and then went back to ripping leaves off the plant. Okay, I muttered, I guess you’re going to eat my plants because I’m not going to shoo you off.

The Girls

Then Bo, my little, deaf, poodle, wandered past me and into the garage, He was hoping I had not cleared away the old cat food he’d found days earlier in a garbage bag that was destined for the dump. When he realized it was gone, he turned and saw the fawn.

Perrenial beauty

I was standing right on the other side of these flowers when I froze.

The Fawn became quite excited. Her ears perked up, her tail swished back and forth and around in half circles. Slowly she came toward us.

Heirloom Iris

Bo stood watching. Then he looked over at me. I don’t know what he thought since I never stand still like that.

Suddenly the fawn started stamping her feet. Not pawing the ground the way a horse does, but pouncing on her front feet the way a dog does to invite play.

The Wanderer

The Wanderer

Unfortunately, Bo didn’t pick up on the message. He’s old, and deaf, and not much into play.

Iris Beauties

The fawn wouldn’t give up. By now she was up nearly at the garage, and right in front of me, only ten feet away.

Lupin

She circled the drive, and pranced her feet, then then snorted at Bo. I wanted to go and dance with her. But I didn’t dare move.

Sweet Woodland Rhododendron

This went on for fifteen minutes. My legs were going numb.

IMG_5839

The fawn gave up on Bo and went back down the drive and continued snacking on the hosta.

Bridal V

I cut my bridal veil down to the ground a few years ago – it was in such a sorry state. But it’s coming back.

Sadly, Bo wandered back to the cat door and disappeared inside. I stayed and watched the fawn until she too gave up and headed off through the woods.

Spider Hiding

This yellow spider was on the front of a the blossom when I arrived. He slowly crawled around to the back to hide.

Not a very exciting story to tell, but believe me, it was quite amazing to stand there and watch.

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This morning when I went out to feed the chickens I heard the first red winged black bird of the season. This is a sure sign spring is here. I couldn’t catch sight of the newly arrived, but a few minutes later I saw her (or him) under the feeder – no doubt chowing down after a long journey.

Red Winged Blackbird 3-9-16

I’m so happy to see her as last year I saw no red winged blackbirds at all. Usually they are plentiful. I feared my birds were some of those found dead on the roads down south.

Normally this time of year snow still covers the ground. Not so this year. In fact I have not had to take out the snow blower even once (knock on wood).

Along with the blackbird came a gloriously warm winter day – 75 degrees (f). I let the girls out of their penned area to enjoy the weather.

The girls out composting

Here they are composting away.

Poor me…I had to choose between staying indoors and working on an oil painting that is near completion, or heading outside to enjoy the day. Of course I did both.

Beautiful afternoon on the pond

The pond across the way.

Ice still on the pondYou can see we still have ice on the pond.

Bo still trekingMy old dog Bo came along for the walk. He’s still a trouper despite his old age.

IMG_4936 croppedHere’s a photo from yesterday. Another beautiful day it was. The sun was setting – but I cheated and put this on “fall” setting to bring out the light.

Their turn under the feeder

When we returned from our walk today, the girls had made their way to the feeder to clean up what was left after the birds, squirrels, and turkeys had had their fill.

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I thought I would add an update on the bobcat situation. Several days after the astounding appearance of the bobcat outside my kitchen window, she (or he), returned. I was at the kitchen sink again and saw the cat over by the chicken coop. I watched her prowling about. Again, I had my camera, and though the distance was too great the capture any good photographs, I did snap a few. She stood near the corner of the coop for a while. She could probably hear the hens inside. And I suspect one or two were cowering outside underneath the coop.

The bobcat returns and contemplates her dinner

The bobcat returns and contemplates her dinner

Suddenly I saw the cat crouch. I knew she was going to attempt to leap onto the roof. From there she would have been able to drop down inside the pen. It would have been curtains for one of the girls.

I raced to the back door, throwing it open as noisily as I could. I was lucky. She had not yet leapt. Off she ran behind the fencing and into the woods. I knew I had to do something to prevent access to the coop’s roof.

Once the ground had thawed enough to allow staking, I set about reworking the tunnels and fencing. I opened up the long tunnel coming from the cat area, and converted it into a tall fence. This I ran from the chicken’s fencing across the front over to the smaller tunnel to the new A-frame. Then I opened up the new short tunnel I’d put in last year, and used that to form another tall fence back to the old door into the back chicken area. Then I built a new door for the new front chicken area. The door looks a bit silly, especially in winter when there is little greenery around. But it serves the purpose, and the chickens are safe. In fact I like this arrangement much better since I can have the front door of the coop open and not have hens escaping into the yard to make holes everywhere.

A new fencing arrangement completed

A new fencing arrangement completed – those boulders to the right are actually in the chicken area

I go in their area and feed them dandelions and other goodies during the day. It’s a much better arrangement.

Lots of new sunny space to dig up

Lots of new sunny space to dig up – the fencing extends forward to the grass where it is staked down, the bamboo poles are freestanding and support the top of the fence by tension.

Happy hens, though they still would prefer being out where I am

Happy hens, though they still would prefer being out where I am

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Toward the end of the winter I purchased a bag of organic potatoes. I don’t eat a lot of potato, so I was eventually left with a bunch of sprouting spuds. Instead of tossing them out, I decided to plant them come spring. Which I did. I dug up a weedy area behind the workshop where Audrey raised her chicks last summer. The soil seemed very rich and fertile, so I did nothing except pull up the weeds in a small rectangular area. Then I cut up the potatoes and put them in the ground, with some straw on top.

The potato patch

The potato patch

I almost forgot about them. Much to my surprise, when I finally did think to check and see what was happening, I had ten or so potato plants growing better than any of the vegetables I’d started in the garden. I’ve been blanketing them in straw as they grow which I understand is what one is supposed to do. 

The chicks' A-frame and chicken coop in the background. And lots of weeds and fern around

The chicks’ A-frame and chicken coop in the background. And lots of weeds and fern all around. I’ll have to watch or the potatoes will be over-run.

Two of the girls, watching.

Two of the girls, watching.

The other day I noticed half a dozen strange-looking bugs eating the leaves. I have no idea what these bugs are. The are translucent except for a brown marking that looks like a teddy bear from above. I’ve never seen these bugs before, and all my searches on Google have not come up with anything like them. So, if anyone knows what this bug is, please let me know. 

What are these?

What are these?

It didn't seem able to fly.

It didn’t seem able to fly.

 

 I took the bugs to the chickens, and they were gone in about two seconds. It’s amazing how keen the chickens’ eyes are. Even when I dropped one bug on the ground, the chickens had no trouble seeing it.

This morning I was mowing the grass which had grown almost knee-high with all the rainy days we’ve had. I spotted an unusual spider on one of the white iris. I don’t know this critter either. He’s pretty handsome though. What he does is crawl inside the blossom, pull the petals in around him, and hide there waiting for something – surely not a bee – perhaps a moth of some sort. I don’t know – I couldn’t hang around long enough to find out.

I know it's a spider, but it's not a familiar one.

I know it’s a spider, but it’s not a familiar one.

Visiting Kitty was here this morning for breakfast. She stayed all winter – inside the house, but mostly on the screened porch. Once the snow had melted enough for her to walk, she was gone. She stayed away for weeks, and just when I was sure she’d become someone’s dinner, she showed up again, meowing outside the door for a meal. Her habit at the moment is to show up, have breakfast, and then take off for another span of several weeks. It’s mid afternoon now, and she’s gone again. I think she must have another home somewhere. She doesn’t seem undernourished, even when she’s been gone for a long time. She’s clearly feral, but does allow me to pat her when she is outside. I couldn’t get near her this winter when she was in the house. Bo could though. She loves Bo.

Here's Visiting Kitty, having breakfast this morning.

Here’s Visiting Kitty, having breakfast this morning.

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The first laid eggs from the leghorn chicks

The first laid eggs from the leghorn chicks

Look what I found in the nesting box this morning. These are the first eggs from the chicks. Well, they are not chicks anymore. Their combs are bright red now.

Fortified tunnel – here come the girls to see what I’m up to – you can see the deer netting lying on the ground behind

Last week a fox got Audrey, Mama Hen. At least I assume it was a fox. I have been quite sad over this. She was such a good mother. This time the fox came in on the other side of the yard. A spot in the tunnel where the fishing line I use to sew the netting together was old and had become a bit brittle, broke open. I found a lot of downy feathers there, and a trail of them up the hill beyond. I spent the better part of the next day refortifying the tunnel, and laying deer netting all along the tunnel on the hill side, in a wide swath which I hope deters another strike. It seems to be working where I laid it out at the other hill.

All the girls

The chicks are part of the group now. I rarely see any aggression between any of the hens. I’m sure they have a pecking order, but they maintain it quietly.

Regular sized and super sized

Regular sized and super sized

I’ve become curious about eggs recently, and particularly about their different sizes. My eggs range in sizes between large and super large. I never see super large eggs in the store, and I’m wondering what happens to these eggs. Are they thrown out the way oddly shaped tomatoes are tossed out? Or do farm chickens not lay super large eggs? I wonder if anyone has the answer to this.  

You can't even begin to close the carton

You can’t even begin to close the carton

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Resident Kitty’s been here every day, hanging out at the back door, waiting for breakfast and dinner. As the days grew cold, I worried about her at night. I’ve not been able to determine where she’s sleeping, but I couldn’t imagine that the garage or under the tool shed could be cozy places to sleep. So I decided to build a house for her. It took me a few days, and Resident Kitty hung around and watched the whole time. I think she knew it was for her.

I have a lot of wood remnants here from various projects, so the only thing I had to spend a few dollars on was the roof drip edging. I ran out of shingles, but my local hardware store, Belletetes, gave me the five pieces I needed, for free.

Breakfast on the front porch

 

I built the house with a removable top for ease of cleaning. The loft area is separated from the bottom with a board, forming a compartment for insulating straw. I put rigid foam insulation under the raised floor. The inside is filled with straw with hollow area for Kitty to curl up in. I put it on casters so I can move it around.

The morning after I built the house, I let Bo out to pee. It was still dark. When I turned the light on for him, out of the little house, climbed Kitty. She’d slept there. YAY! And she was there then next night as well.

 

Making herself at home

I wish I could say it was a perfect solution for her, but she’s not been around the last few days, so I suspect there’s a barn around here that is a little better protection. I was thinking of getting those warmer things you put in the microwave, but there’s not much point if she’s no longer here. Still, I suspect she’ll be back for a meal at some point, and she may find it a good place when the weather is a little warmer – a place to shelter from the rain.

I enjoyed the project. I’m thinking of painting it come spring. Fun colors!

The chicks are no longer chicks. They all sleep in the big coop now, and only once in a while do I discover one or two at dusk, back on the high perch in the chick’s coop. I don’t  know if they are there due to a lapse in memory, or for old time’s sake. If it’s going to be really cold, I move them. I can’t wait to see the first tiny white egg.

All grown up

 

Abbey – come to see what I’m doing in the pen

 

The hens hang out together in the sun – they seem to know the spot where the sun stays most of the day

 

While I was photographing the hens, I suddenly noticed one of the chicks was outside the pen

One of the chicks has figured out how to get out of the pens. She’s either found a hole that is so far elusive, or she’s flying up and out. Here I was photographing the hens lounging behind the door when I suddenly noticed one of the chicks was outside. She’s done this twice now. It’s a bit worrisome knowing there’s a fox around. I laid out deer fencing on the ground where the fox had been coming in. I’m hoping this is a deterrent. So far, so good.

We’ve had only a dusting of snow so far. This is the first fall I’ve managed to get the garden all turned over and ready for the spring. I was thrilled at how many worms there were. Every shovel full of dirt was loaded with worms. They’d already gone way down ready for the winter. I hope they had enough time to get themselves situated for the cold again after being rudely disturbed.

Ready for spring – the greens are turnips which I’ll harvest in the spring, sweetened by the cold

 

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Enjoying the broccoli remnants

 

I really don’t know what came over me last week, but I’ve been doing a lot of reading about building with cob. This research seems to have burst from the zone of passive interest into a compulsion to act. I decided to build a small, round, hut made of cob. This small structure would be my learning exercise. Mind you, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m just going with my gut – so to speak. First I intend to build a frame from saplings and woven branches. This will be covered with straw, and then over that on both sides, I will put the cob.

 

Digging the holes

 

Cob is extremely durable and keeps you warm in winter and cool in summer. I’m not really planning to live in this, but I do consider that if I had to, I could. Part of the impetus is my desire to have a safe place to survive if the Earth does ‘shift’, and all the trees around here come down. It is unlikely that the trees will avoid crushing my house – maybe even me too. 

More holes

The first step in this somewhat bizarre compulsion was to find a place that would possibly escape destruction from the trees. Once I found the spot, I spent several days traipsing the woods in search of hard wood saplings about 17 feet tall with no branches to speak of. There are tons of these oak and maple saplings around here since the pine trees are over 100 feet and shut out most of the sunlight.

 

Cementing the poles

Once I had a good supply, I proceeded to cement them into holes in the ground. Then when I had most of them anchored, I began to pull them into a center point at the top. I had pictured a nicely woven join at the center, but I found that it was not all that easy to pull these trees over and get them held down. I ended up with a big mess of rope and tree limbs. But the main purpose is to get the trees in more or less their final position while they are still green and flexible. Come spring, I will undo the bundle and make the top more pleasing.  

 

Getting there – Sweetpea keeps me company

If I do end up making this into a cob structure, what I plan is to weave smaller branches horizontally through the vertical posts, cover them with straw, and then slowly apply the cob inside and out. Cob is made from a mix of clay soil, water, and straw. It takes a long time to build, but it is cost-free (thanks to Mother Nature), and can be molded into windows, doorways, shelves, etc. The base of the hut will need to be stone so that moisture doesn’t wick up through the cob, but if done properly, the little hut should be strong and warm in the winter, cool in the summer.

The dome shaping up

 

Since starting this madness, I have begun to think of other uses for this stick structure. It does occur to me that if I covered it with clear plastic, it might make a usable green house for starting plants in the spring. I could also just make it into a stick hut for the two youngest grandsons – they’d have fun with it. I will wait and see how I feel come spring.

 

Not exactly what I had envisioned

Regardless of what this ends up being, I had a lot of fun doing this, and look forward to the next stages.

Of course, while I was busy  playing, there were lots of other things I could/should have been doing.

I decided to let the birds and other critters have most of the sunflower seeds

I am posting this after coming in from bedding the chickens. I went first to shut in the chicks. I was surprised to find only two. I was pretty sure I’d find the others in the big coop. I knew they weren’t missing – I’d been watching them from the kitchen window just before bedtime.

 

Only two chicks!

And yes, there they were. YAY – it’s been getting cold and I’ve been hoping they would move themselves into the warmer coop. Tomorrow I suspect all four will be in there. Just in time for winter. Aren’t they smart!

Well well, looks who’s moved in!

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