Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

Confusion and Consternation in the Coop

Monday, November 11th, 2019

Beg Red Wanting Out Into The Garden

Yesterday, I opened the gate between the new chickens and the three old biddies. Not old in the age-sense, mind you.  Just in the proprietorial sense.  The co-mingling didn’t go perfectly but, on the other hand, no serious disagreements occurred.  Mostly, I think, because of the intimidation factor.

The three small hens were wary.  They approached the scratch that I threw out to all of them on tiptoes (tipclaws just sounds wrong) and scuttled off quickly when the big chickens let them know that they weren’t really invited to share.  I had brought out some meal worms for the new couple, following the example of their former farmer, and enticed them away from the scratch by some deft hand-feeding.  To be fair, I did offer some meal worms to the little (not in the sense of young; purely a size thing) ones,but they were having none of it.  Must be an acquired taste.

By the time I headed out the gate, Big Red had made his move toward each of the little ladies, but without success.  They scuttled out of his way with a considerable amount of clucking and scolding.  I’m sure I heard, “I’m just not that kind of girl.” And “I hardly know you, you dumbcluck!”

Little Red Hen All By herself

Interestingly, I’ve never seen Big Red approach his large lady friend with any amorous intent.  When I mentioned that to Farmer Nyel he looked at me with total amazement.  “That would be incestuous!” he said.  “She’s his sister!”  Sometimes I wonder about that man…

It is the big new hen who seems to be the most snarky one of the new, combined flock.  When Snowhite approached the water trough, Ms. Large Lady scolded and blocked her way.  This morning I noticed that Snowhite has retaliated and had taken up a position in the doorway of the coop, clucking and scolding and saying very clearly, “Mine!  All mine!  Keep out!”

It isn’t clear to me whether the new chickens have actually been allowed inside the coop at all yet.  They spent last night huddled in the little broody shed and, though they seem to be ruling the run, so to speak, I think the little hens are ruling the roost.

Having A Spa Day

Oh and did I say that our old Little Red Hen darted out the gate right along with me this morning?  No way would she be enticed back into the run.  I’m planning to do some lawn fertilizing today and don’t want the flock inadvertently sampling any of it so I’ve left them inside the run — all except for that recalcitrant Little Red.  Later, though, I spied her having a dust bath over by the north rhodies.  Leave it to her to turn her escape into a spa day!

When I worried about detente in the coop, Farmer Nyel soothed, “It’ll sort itself out.”  We can but hope.

So far so good. We can but hope.

Thursday, November 7th, 2019

Big Red — Still a Teenager

His wake-up call came right at first light.  Six-thirty.  An hour and a half late for us at this time of year but nice to know that the new rooster is on the job from day one.  His cock-a-doodle-do is yet a little uncertain in the middle, but he’s working on it.  Quite a bit.

Farmer Nyel and I had spent yesterday down at the coop getting ready for the new residents.  Nyel built the coop during the summer of 2008 and made a separate area a few years later to serve as a Broody House and Pen.  Right now I’m thinking of it as the Honeymoon Suite since it’s housing both the new rooster and his pullet lady friend.  Both have accepted their new quarters gracefully, although they hang out by the chicken-wire fencing that keeps them separate from our three older ladies.

Waiting for Morning Treats

For their part, Slutvana, Snow White, and the Little Red Hen have been quite curious about the newcomers.  Especially Snow White.  She appears to be rather aggressive in her “welcome” — going right up to the fence and clucking furiously.  I hadn’t thought so before, but she may well have become the alpha hen of the group once we took the last rooster to the Chehalis Poultry Auction in the spring.

Little Red is less forceful but also very interested.  We wondered if she would recognize the newcomers as relatives (or vice versa) but, so far, the fact that they are all Rhode Island Reds doesn’t seem to be a factor in the getting acquainted game.  Perhaps it is because the new girl is twice as large as she is and the rooster is even bigger still.  Could it be that Little Red doesn’t recognize that they are cousins?

As for Slutvana — she approached the fence, looked over the new couple and left for a day in the garden.  I could almost her her disdain.  She is, of course, the one that none of our previous boys could leave alone.  She definitely has that special something that makes her the most desirable girl in the coop and she appears to know it.  When Big Red (Nyel says that is his name) is finally allowed to co-mingle, we will see if Slutvana’s charms are holding.  If all goes well, we think the big co-mingling day will be next Monday.

The new Rhode Island Red hen

And as for me and Big Red.  So far so good.  He welcomed me into the Honeymoon Suite this morning and ate meal worms right out of my hand.  He was gentle and polite although he didn’t let his suite-mate have any.  Neither of us argued with him, but I was able to slip her a few goodies on my way out.

Thus far… a good beginning.

Another Rooster? Please God, No!!!

Wednesday, November 6th, 2019

The last time we took a mean rooster to the Poultry Auction in Chehalis we both said, “Never again!”  So why, you might ask, is it that a young rooster is coming to join our flock today at three o’clock?  Why indeed?

It started five or six months ago with a conversation with our friend Nancy Allen.  Nancy has had chickens — hens only — for several years now.  I’m always interested (and gobsmacked) by her chicken stories — five snacks a day including cottage cheese and meal worms, baby chicks roaming her kitchen etc. Her chicken philosophy is the polar opposite of Farmer Nyel’s.  I find her chickens-as-pets approach fascinating and appalling at the same time.

So when she called to say that she had acquired four Rhode Island Red chicks but Phil said she could only keep two and she offered the other two to us, I was reluctant.  For starters, since Nyel has become incapacitated mobility-wise,  I now have 100% care of our little flock.  I am not an enthusiastic farmer, chicken or otherwise, and I find the daily coop duties more than I can handle.  In my mind, the philosophy around here is “attrition is good.”  Getting two more girls and coddled ones at that did not have much appeal.

Beautiful but Mean

But… Farmer Nyel looked at me with big eyes and… we said, “okay.”  Nancy said she’d like to wait until the hens were laying successfully so it would be a few months.  We said, “okay.”   But a month or six weeks ago, Nancy called to say that one of the hens was quite a bit larger than the others and she was suspicious.  “No roosters!” I said.   “Well, we’ll watch her and see…” was the response.  Last week the word was, “He’s definitely a rooster.  He’s begun to crow.  But he’s very sweet…”  “No roosters!” said I.

Nancy was persistent.  “He’s very very well behaved,” she said.  “Not at all aggressive.  Won’t you come and meet him and see for yourself?”  Meanwhile… Farmer Nyel was looking at me with big eyes.  So… I went to meet Mr. Rooster yesterday and learned that 1) Nancy wanted to bring him to Oysterville that very afternoon and 2) that the hens were not laying yet so it would be a while before the hen could join our flock.  “Laying those first few eggs can be traumatic,” Nancy said.  Gobsmacked, I said nothing.

We finally agreed that the rooster would come at three o’clock this afternoon but only if accompanied by one of the hens.  “Could we fix up the coop so they can see the others but be separate from them for a while?  They say that’s the best way to introduce new members to the flock…”  I said I’d see what we could do.  I didn’t mention that the last time we did the slow (five day) introduction trick, one of the new hens was pecked to death the first day of togetherness.  My hope is that the Mr. Rooster will protect his lady friend…

But the greater hope is that there will be no pecking at others at all — especially at me.  I do not have a good history with roosters.  And I don’t have a Plan B.  Stay tuned…

 

 

Oh no! Not you, too?

Monday, October 21st, 2019

Looking Suspiciously Tatty

Just when Slutvana, the Russian Orloff is looking back to “normal” and Snowhite, the all-white-mystery-hen, is halfway to feathered out… our pretty Little Red Hen has begun to molt.  Big Time!  I thought she was going to escape the molting season unscathed, but no such luck. So… despite Slutvana’s regrowth (she never was that attractive), we have a motley looking group down in the coop

They say that appearances aren’t everything.  I’m not so sure with chickens.  Granted, the egg production is more important but, so far, even the molty ones haven’t quit laying entirely.  We have been getting one or two eggs a day throughout the feather renewal process and, for the two of us that’s plenty with some to spare.

Snowhite’s Online Twin

Once again, our girls seem to dance to their own drummers.  According to Nutrena’s website:  During molt, chickens typically stop laying eggs and use this time to build up their nutrient reserves. Even though they are not laying, it is critical that your chickens have a high quality diet during this time.  Of course, Nutrena is in the business of selling poultry food, so they may be biased about molting.  And since our girls are fairly reluctant readers… they don’t know the difference.

I worry a little that it has turned cold and wet outside and the girls’ outer wear is definitely tatty.  They don’t seem to notice, though.  They march around the garden as proudly as ever.  There’s no doubt a lesson to be learned there.  But I remain unconvinced that appearances are not everything.

 

Waiting for Wednesday

Friday, October 4th, 2019

Nyel on the Move

Day before yesterday it was sunny in the afternoon here in Oysterville.  It was a Wednesday.  Yesterday it rained.  Today it is raining.  And the forecast says it will be raining until next Wednesday.

We are waiting for the sun breaks, whether they only come on Wednesdays or not.  That’s when Nyel can go outside and commune with his chickens and other garden denizens.  He could probably get outside on rainy days, too, although his “all terrain” wheelchair is electric and getting it wet is not recommended.   Not that communing with wet  chickens sounds particularly appealing, anyway.

When Nyel headed outside with his book  Wednesday, his plan was to sit in the sun and read.  He invited me to join him in the south garden and so out we went.  We were only halfway there when the girls spied us and trailed along behind.  Shyly.  We think the wheelchair is a little overwhelming for them, but they made it clear that they wanted to say “hello” to Farmer Nyel.

Farmer Nyel and His Girls

We thought an offering of food might help — chickens can’t resist a tasty morsel or two — so I went to get the can of scratch.  Sure enough, as soon a Nyel rattled it, all their shyness evaporated and they were eating out of his hand in no time.

Next Wednesday maybe he’ll see if one or two of them would like to ride around the yard with him.  It will make quite a picture, don’t you think?  “Man in Wheelchair with Chickens” we’ll call the portrait.  Could be one of a kind!

Which season is it, anyway?

Sunday, September 29th, 2019

Really?? An apple blossom in autumn?

Today’s blossoms on our apple tree say clearly that it’s summer.  The lawn chairs with legs akimbo say the winds of autumn have arrived.  The flagpole sans flags announce that winter storms are expected.

I think the chairs win!  The calendar says September 29th — the sixth day of autumn, 2019.  I’d forgotten (if ever I knew) that Our Grand Affair was on the last day of summer.  It was definitely a day that telegraphed “Autumn On Its Way” and here we are, a week later, with all the signs pointing toward Halloween and Thanksgiving.

The morning after a windy night!

Except for that one, lonely apple blossom.  I wonder if it will become an apple…  I haven’t seen any bees in the garden for a while so I’m not hopeful.  Nor do I expect any long, sunny days which I also think are necessary for the fruit-setting to occur.  Maybe Larkin will weigh in with a thought on the subject.  I remember long ago when I had a fruit tree question, Larkin had a great deal more information for me than all the internet sites put together.

Lonely Flagpole

Yesterday, Nyel and I spent a few hours outside in the sun — me puttering and deadheading, Nyel  giving occasional advice and dozing over his book.  Now that he is able to be outside, it seems wrong for the season to change so quickly.  Come to think of it, maybe THAT”S why the apple tree is blooming — to welcome Farmer Nyel back to the garden.

The girls, on the other hand, seemed very shy.  But then, you never know about chickens… social one day, uppity the next.  Maybe they were just embarrassed about their featherless, molting condition which Nyel did, indeed, notice — even from afar.  He was sympathetic, mostly.  But I did hear him mutter, “Dumb time of year to molt,” though he knows full well they are right on schedule.  What was Mother Nature thinking, anyway, when she decreed that molting should occur when the days grow shorter?

 

 

 

Chickens, Tsunamis, and The Water Stash

Monday, August 12th, 2019

All In A Row

“What are all those bottles of water lined up by your back door?” our friend Mark asked one Friday night.  “Well…” I responded, “they began as Tsunami Preparation but have segued into Chicken Supplies.”  He nodded as if that made sense, and maybe it does.  Or not.  Definitely one of those it-is-what-it-is things.

There was a time when Nyel took the whole tsunami preparedness schtick very seriously.  He refitted his old backpack with an upgraded first aid kit, bought a backpack for me to replace the one I’d given to Goodwill thirty or forty years ago, and began stockpiling emergency supplies.  Well…  supplies of water.  He rinsed out used tonic water bottles and carefully filled them with refreshing Oysterville water, dating each bottle as it was placed on the pantry shelves.  Periodically, he would refresh and redate.  But mostly, there they sat.

Judging by the dates, he began the Tsunami Preparedness Program in 2001. It petered out in 2015 which was the year Nyel’s left leg was encased in a plaster cast from groin to ankle and he spent three months in a hospital bed.  One of my “other duties as assigned” (in addition to my Nurse Ratched responsibilities) was to take care of the chickens.

Pantry Shelves

Lugging food down to the coop wasn’t hard, but carrying buckets of water was.  So… I began taking and using those tsunami bottles.  As in, who wouldn’t?  That was in 2015…  and the beat goes on.  Today I refilled the empties (though I didn’t date them) and put some back on the pantry shelves — mostly to get them out of the way.

It’s not that I’ve given up on the tsunami — it’s just that the reality these days is, with Nyel’s bum leg it takes us the full twenty minutes just to get out of the house.  Never mind the provisions.  And, when you are in Oysterville, where to go in that time allotment is actually the first big question.  We have resolved that IF we can make it into the car in time, we’ll head for the highest nearby spot — the Oysterville Cemetery — and hug a tree.  If that doesn’t do it… well, we’ll end up where we hope to be eventually, anyway.

As for the water… any surviving chickens will be more than welcome to it.  (I wonder if I should be helping them with their bottle-opening skills.)

 

When is enough enough?

Thursday, August 8th, 2019

Broody Svetlana 8-5-19

Ms. Svetlana is still broody.  It’s been more than a month now.  According to the experts:  When a hen is broody, that means she wants to hatch her eggs and raise chicks. A breed known for frequent broodiness has hens that often, individually go broody. These hens may not even need eggs to set on to be broody–they may brood in a nest with no eggs. Or in a corner on rocks.

Well, Svetlana is a bit more rationale than that, but not much.  If I remove the eggs from under her (despite her pecking at me), she waits until one of the other girls lays in the nest box next door and, as soon as the hen vacates the premises, Svetlana moves in.  She is one determined fowl!

Frozen Okra

I’ve read that the chicken farmer might be able to break the broody cycle by putting a bag of frozen vegetables, say peas, under Ms. Broody.  Since a raised temperature is one of the symptoms of broodiness, the icy underpinnings may break the cycle and the unrequited mother hen will return to “normal.”  We happen to have a bag of frozen okra (OMG!) in our freezer and tomorrow I’m making the ultimate (NOT!) sacrifice.    (When I asked Nyel why the okra, he said that before he fractured his hip, he was thinking of making gumbo.  I repeat: OMG!)

And speaking of Nyel’s health matters…  we DID get an appointment in Seattle for a second opinion on his osteo-myelitis diagnosis.  Not at the University of Washington Medical Center’s Infectious Disease Department, however.  They informed us that they no longer take Medicare patients.  Say what???  I’m trying to figure out how to get them to sit on icy bags of okra — or a human equivalent of something to break through their unreasonableness.  No Medicare patients???  Really?  I wonder if that comes under elder-discrimination.  (85% of Medicare patients are over 65.)

 

And now there are four…

Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

The Black and White Hens, June 3, 2019

Night before last, there were only three girls huddled on the roost when I went down to tuck them in.  It was gloamy out but quite dark in the coop and I couldn’t make out clearly which two were missing.  I thought probably one was the Little Red Hen.  She’s the most adventurous and if anyone was still out on the town I thought for sure it would be she.

Then, yesterday morning, the white hen stood in front of the locked gate to the run.  She seemed full of attitude as in, “What is this?  You locked me out?  I couldn’t very well have left that party early, could I?”  But she was silent as to who she should have brought home with her.

As it turned out, it was one of the black hens — not the LRH, much to my relief.  I know I shouldn’t have favorites, but that red hen does seem to be the leader of the group and is always the one who approaches me first when I go outside.  I think she feels somewhat responsible for her missing friend.  She has seemed distracted — didn’t even dive into the scratch this morning.

LRH Returns After An Adventure

Instead she cluck-clucked at me and led me back into the run where she just stood looking up at me.  “I know,” I told her.  “The black hen should be here somewhere, but she isn’t.”  And, again, the two of us looked under the coop and in every nook and cranny.  To no avail.

On the one hand, I feel totally responsible since the disappearance took place on my watch.  On the other hand, I’m glad that Carol wasn’t on duty.  I’d feel even worse if she felt responsible.  Farmer Nyel tries to console me.  “It’s a chicken, Sydney,” he says.  “Stuff happens,” he says.  “We’ve  lost others, too.  It’s all a part of having chickens.”  I think his attitude is probably quite farmer-like.

All of which I understand.  But still…

 

Going To Bed With You-Know-Who!

Sunday, June 9th, 2019

I’ve always been an “early to bed, early to rise” kind of person, so “going to bed with the chickens” is not a problem for me.  Ditto “up at the crack of dawn.”   But during these longest days of the year here in the northern climes, our free range chickens are causing me a fair amount of sleep deprivation.

Take today, for instance.  First light is at 4:45 a.m. according to https://sunrisesunset.willyweather.com/wa/pacific-county/long-beach.html.  Sunrise is at 5:23 a.m.  That’s about the time I’m having my first cup of coffee, and even though the chickens are up and stirring in the coop, they don’t really get anxious about door-opening time until 8:00 or 8:30.  By then, they are thirsty and eager to get to their water trough out in the run.  And they are feeling a little peckish about their morning snack.

At the other end of the day, though, they often push the limits.  Although sunset will be at 9:07 tonight, you can bet your basket of eggs that those girls will be out free-ranging in the rhodies until last light at 9:45.  I’ve told them that they are pushing my envelope pretty severely but you know how it is with chickens.  They only listen when they want to.

And speaking of listening — I’ve been noticing that when they hear my voice coming from inside the house (as when I’m talking on the phone) they all gather outside the nearest window to eavesdrop.  If I’m in the dining room, they come up on the front porch and gather under the dining room windows.  When I’m in the library, they scrunch under the hydrangea and cock their heads in an interested sort of way.  I wonder what’s going on in their little gray cells.

When the hummingbirds chase us from window to window around the house, we know that their feeder is empty.  I suspect when the chickens appear to be eavesdropping, they are hopeful that I’m about to bring them some scratch.  Even if it’s last light, I know for a fact that they aren’t signalling lock-down time.

No doubt afternoon naps are the answer to my lack of sleep problem, but I’m resisting them as firmly as I did when I was three years old.  I knew then and i know now that they are a waste of precious time…  And besides, if your mother is making a chocolate cake and your friend comes over to play, guess who gets to lick the bowl while you are sound asleep!!!