It’s what I do

A coworker once asked me about my weekend, which launched me into a conversation monologue about my chickens.   I told her my husband and I had built some security into their run because of hawk problems, and that I had mucked out the chicken palace.  At that last comment she snorted incredulously,

You enjoy doing that?

to which I replied,

“Well, yes I do.”

My chickens and geese depend on me.  I get up, don my “Fashionable attire for feeding chickens and geese on COLD mornings,”  brace myself, walk out the door, and set to work.

The routine is the same, it never varies by much except for how cold it gets.  Today the ice on the chicken’s water is only the thickness of cardboard.  Once last year it was over an inch thick and I had to go out and crack it again midday!  This morning I easily break it with my wellies, and then reaching in with my ungloved hand, I lift out the shards.  My fingers burn from the icy chill.  Quickly I dry them on my wooly robe, and just as quickly reglove them.

Next, I let out Quasimodo and Miss Dixie, check for an egg, and grab their food dispenser to take with me to the barn for refilling.

Quasi is my special needs silky rooster.   He has curled toes, that make him hobble and lurch, and he’s blind in one eye from an infection he picked up as a baby chick.  Miss Dixie is a mixed breed, little white splash hen (Blue Andalusian and Buff Polish) who thinks that Quasimodo is the perfect mate… she can say,

“No, thank you dear.”

and there is nothing he can do about it.

Now, the fun begins!  It’s off to the barn to let out the geese.  As I near the roll up door I hear them becoming animated.   I try to sneak up on them every morning, but their little grunting noises tell me that they’ve once again heard the gate latch.  I approach the door and call out,

“Good morning duck-butts, good morning!”

Which gets them knocking on the metal door with their beaks in response.  Huey stretches his long neck under the door and rushes out, next comes Polly who strolls out, stops, and taking a moment, looks up at me as if to say,

“Good morning to you Missus!”  and  “What took you so long?”

Last is Little Dorrit, who once everyone else is out of the way, begins flapping her wings and honking as she becomes airborne!  This little morning flight gets her four feet up out of the straw and six feet out of the door.  When she lands she takes off running and honking to catch up.  I listen as her little flappy feet slap the frozen mud and I realize I’m smiling.

Last stop, the chicken palace.   I open the gate to the run and hear them all cooing inside.  Someone has gotten into someone else’ space in the door lineup inside the coop.  Squawking and rustling ensues.  I call out…

“Good morning stinkies, com’on out!”

I open the coop doors and they rush, tumbling beak-over-butt-feathers to get out and find breakfast.  Some days, I let them out first and when they realize the food isn’t there yet, they race back to me, and stopping they look up as if to say,

“What’s this trick?  Where’s breakfast?”

I refill their food dispenser, put food into the other chicken’s feeder, check their water and then go in to check for eggs.  This morning I find that there is one, freshly laid, blue-green jewel in the back nest.  Reaching in I pick it up and discover that it is still warm.  Removing my glove from the still frozen hand I take the egg and cradle it there.  It’s heat begins thawing my fingers as I place it into my pocket.  Unwilling to let go, I leave my hand there with the egg until it becomes too cool to work its magic.

Almost done!  Now, returning to the little coop, I hang the newly filled feeder for them, then looking back, I check quickly to be sure I haven’t left any gates open.

Pausing before I go in, I reach back into my pocket and pull out the little egg.   Looking at it I think,

“This is why I do it.”

~*~

My little reward from my girls for the time I take to keep them happy.

~*~

Ahem, if you haven’t clicked on the link to “Fashionable attire for feeding chickens and geese on COLD mornings”  then you’re missing out on a rare and candid view…  😉

~*~

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Photo Friday: Diversity

Crab Spider 3

We set to work early to fortify the chicken run.  We’d wanted to beat the heat and humidity that had plagued our days that summer.   Normally we would have put it off till better weather, but something had been killing my chickens in the night so it couldn’t wait.

This crab spider was easy to spot on the green fence post.  Taking a moment I studied her closely, noticing the opacity of her legs and how she held them out wide in front of her.  Do you see the red stripe going along the sides of her abdomen?  I find her strangely beautiful.

Now whatever your view, creationist or evolutionary, you have to wonder how a white spider fits into life’s scheme. Where does its coloration come to be an advantage, when it is not clinging to a green fence post for me to find at 5:30 in the morning?   (The answer can be found HERE)

Have a wonderful weekend!

OH, and don’t forget to set your clocks forward an hour tomorrow night!

The morning after

After all the excitement of the hawk incident, most of my girls were pretty anxious to get back to business as usual.  So I was sorry to disappoint them yesterday by closing the gate in their face, but close it I did and left.  I had other work to do!   The Silkys on the other side of the yard were even more incensed as I did not let them out until I had made some sort of emergency makeshift run for them.

To accomplish this I put up a metal dog playpen and attached it to the chain link fence.  Then I took my staple gun and stapled garden bird netting directly to the sides of their hutch.  Next, I took a box of spring binder clips and attached the netting all the way around to top of the chain link and the dog playpen.  It looks  a ramshackle affair, but seems to be working!  I can live with it for a couple of days till Bob and I can do something more permanent and less ghastly looking…

When finished I quickly ducked under, opened up their hutch, gave them their ladder and watched for them to come out.   They didn’t.  I waited, and waited!  Oh-KAY-THEN.   I went inside to watch from the window.  It took the two adults about a half an hour to come out, but the three babies took till almost noon!   Poor things.

Later in the evening I went out to lock up the hutches and collect any remaining eggs from the day.  The egg count was understandably very low.  This happens when the girls get stressed.  However, the most curious thing I found wasn’t in the nesting boxes.

It was this…

and I found it in the leaf litter out in the run!

These are Tippy’s eggs.  the one on the right is normal, and the one on the left is about the size of a medium jaw breaker!

I know it to be hers, because she is the only girl I have that lays white eggs.  (blue tint is an anomaly of the photo)   The little one is called a *Wind Egg, or as some crusty folk call it,  a “Fart Egg.”  When opened the inside will contain only the albumin or “white” of the egg.  Quite irregular, but then I guess if you are throttled the day before by a hawk and he pulls out all your tail feathers, but you thankfully manage to get away, then you can be expected to be a little off the next day.

Poor baby!

*For more amazing and strange egg anomalies look here: http://www.poultryhelp.com/oddeggs.html

A murder most fowl

The day did not break, it rather came out of hiding.  A slow and progressive lightening of the dark sky which  revealed the morning, and the misty cold rain that came down to  turn everything it touched to a dark and ugly brown.

I went out as I always do at chicken-thirty of a morning, to release everyone, and to put out feed and water.  I told my girls to stay in and stay dry, but do they listen?  NO!  After all they say,  “The bugs are juicier and more abundant out in the pasture.”

Fast forward about 4 hours…

The Guineas (aka: Weechoos) are going berserk, screaming and chattering so loudly I can hear them through the tightly closed windows.  I get up to go chastise them.  Two are strangely huddled against the fence while the one closest to me is running and jumping up on the fence by the window.  She is still screaming and looking at me, then to the other two.  Suddenly, a large shape separates itself from the fence line right above the two Weechoos farthest from me.  It is a hawk!

I stand there thinking I will never make it on time, but turn anyway to run out the door.   Grabbing the broom as I go I head out and begin calling to the chickens in the loudest voice.  I am hoping that the noise will scare away the hawk!  I think it’s working but go out into the pasture to be sure.

I find a handful of my girls and Topper bashing themselves against the chain link fence in blind terror to get back into the chicken yard.  I herd them all in  through the gate.  I keep calling but can’t see any of the rest of my flock.  Finally I see Grayson across the pasture and he is pressed up against the fence in the farthest corner from me.  Slowly I make out the forms of more chickens strung out along the fence line and frozen there.

I look about but do not see any evidence of the hawk, so I leave thinking I have done my job.  I go into the house and to the window.  At that moment I see little Tippy still on the other side of the pasture move, and the hawk is there in an instant!

Feathers fly and I am helpless to do anything for her!  When I am certain all is lost she breaks free and flies 400 feet across the field to get to safety!  I knew chickens could fly enough to get over the fence, but I had no idea that they could do that!

Again running for the door I scramble down the wet stairs in slippered feet, once again I go to the aid of my chickens!  I am yelling at the top of my voice HERE CHICK-CHICK-CHICK!  Repeating it over and over,  as I race to the gate to let them in.  Finally, Grayson makes a break for it and everyone follows his lead, they are running to get to me and I let them into the yard.  Amazingly, they all went directly into the chicken run … that is except for the Weechoos.  They are still outside screaming their wattles off over all the excitement.  I tempt them with scratch and they come in too.

Now I count chicken butts and find:  4 Barred Rocks, 4 Black Australorps, 7 Rhoad Island Reds, 2 Amerucanas, Grayson, Tippy and Topper.  All present and accounted for I tell myself.  Everyone settles down and begins scratching for the feed I scattered down.  I watch them eat paying particular attention to Tippy and Topper.

They are battered and featherless on their backs.  Tippy’s poor tail is gone save one lone feather.  It is pathetic looking, but I tell myself they are OK and the feathers will grow again.

Again I return to the house.  Bringing my computer to the dining room table I sit down to write to you and the Weechoos go off again.  I look to see if somehow the hawk has managed to break in.  No, all is well, but they continue to scream.  Going from window to window I scour the trees,  and then I see it.

The hawk is sitting under the silkies hutch.  It has caught Momma Roo and it is too late.  I run to the door, chase the hawk away, and pick up her lifeless body.

Standing there I agonized over whether to let the hawk have its meal or dispose of her.  I think to myself, If I take her away then the hawk will come again tomorrow and simply take another of my girls. Then I think,  But if I leave it for the hawk, then I’ll simply be reinforcing that this is a meal station.

I carry her inside, wrap her in paper, and dispose of her.

The remaining silkys were in hiding, the youngest in the hutch, Kung Foo Roo in the incinerator, and Lady Roo was nowhere to be seen.  I finally found her frozen in terror behind the incinerator.  I picked her up to put her in the hutch and Kung Foo Roo came out of hiding and attacked me!  A valiant effort on his part, but I was not the enemy.  I understood and forgave his savage blows.

I would make four more trips out to the yard before dark to chase away that hawk.  He was simply not going to take “NO” for an answer, but I managed to keep him off of my Roo.  (I would have put him inside his hutch, but I just couldn’t catch him.)  Now, and for some time to come, I will simply have to keep my birds in their run.  No more letting them out to pasture.  I will have to build them a larger run, and a new one for the silkys too.

A sad day for us here on the Farmlet

The Culprit

How would you have handled this situation?