Chickens and Dogs, Oh My

First of all, I’d like to sincerely thank all of you who have said such kind and supportive things to Mandi after yesterday’s post about Sweetie. I know she feels the love from all of you. And I mean ALL of you. Her post and the one about Brody getting hurt are the two most-read posts since I started this blog. Close behind came dead chickens. Hmm. I sense a theme.

I feel lots better when sitting on Daddy. Harvey is being good, though.

So, here you go, something on both injured dogs AND dead chickens. Something for everybody, huh?

I guess you can tell from my tone that this isn’t all that horrible. Like Mandi said yesterday, when you live out in the country, you see life and death every day. I think it gets you a better perspective; we all are going to go sometime, for some reason, so let’s appreciate what we have now. Platitudes, maybe, but true.

Chickens can be funny

We did have another chicken loss this week. It was really hot, then really cold, and I guess if a chicken had to die of natural causes, the cold time is probably better. Poor little Ameracauna was just sitting on her nest. Sara thinks she was eggbound or had some other issue. At least nothing ate her, and it was peaceful. Poor dear.

For only having nine hens now, we are still getting lots of colors. And the pinkish one in the middle is HUGE.

I mentioned that the egg production had ramped up, but it had settled to four a day, which isn’t many for the number of chickens we had. As we were dealing with the dead chicken, Tyler, who lives in the cabin by the coop, came out. I said feel free to take a few eggs now, since we have enough for at least our community. He said, “Oh, I’ve been finding them in a weird place lately…oh my gosh!” He had turned to the shelves outside his door and found SEVEN eggs from a brown hen on the top shelf. Someone found a nice, warm roost. So, yesterday, everybody got some eggs!

Continue reading “Chickens and Dogs, Oh My”

Birding in the Fog

Admittedly, I was excited to go to Galveston Island, because I had the thought that a lot of the migratory birds would still be hanging around and I could see them. I didn’t count on it being a rather dismal day for photography, in which everything around was the same shade of brownish gray.

We certainly couldn’t see anything from our hotel room other than exotic Beach Pigeons (same as any other pigeon). The birds were probably all frightened away by the belching pseudo-volcano at the Rainforest Cafe that was the primary view from our balcony (we could also see the Gulf, when the fog lifted slightly).

Here I am pretending that the Rainforest cafe is 1) open or 2) fun.

Once we were awake (-ish, since the hotel didn’t have any reasonable coffee), we took a walk on the beach. This proved to us that it doesn’t have to be a warm and sunny day to enjoy the shore.

Look how well these birds blend in with the rocks and surf.

At first we didn’t see anything other than gulls, pigeons, and grackles, but once we walked down the jetty, we adjusted our eyes, and boom! There were some beautiful little ruddy turnstones busily picking at the moss and seaweed growing on the granite (from Marble Falls!). They were very industrious and blended amazingly well among the blocks. You really only noticed them when they moved.

Evrybody’s head is all tucked. Nap time?

We kept walking down the jetty until Lee stopped me and said, “Look!” Sure enough, there was a flock of what appear to me to be sanderlings, huddling together to stay warm, or something. They were at least a little easier to spot. They let us get nice and close, so I could get a good photo.

Continue reading “Birding in the Fog”

Egg Production UP!

Hooray! I can’t wait until tomorrow to share this! The winter slump is over, and the ten or eleven remaining hens are starting to lay again. Mandi and Seth (the weekday gatherers) report that every day this week there are more.

Buckbeak is very proud of his remaining ladies.

Today’s 7 is pretty darned good! The owl deterrent measures seem to have helped, and we think it went to other hunting grounds.

We’re the big mamas. Ready to make you some eggs! Thanks for feeding us all winter!

Now maybe we can get a few more. We’re still going to do more coop work. But I’m so glad they’re out of the winter doldrums.

Senses Working Overtime

Yesterday was a beautiful day, and whenever that happens, I’m sure to take a walk or two during the workday. I use that time to make plans for meetings and figure out problems, like I said in my previous walking post. It helps me think.

Can you spot the bees in the sweet olive bush?

Moments after I stepped out of the building, my spirits lifted, and I happily thought to myself, “Sweet Olives!” Once again I gave thanks that my sense of smell is very good and that some smart landscape designer put sweet olive hedges all around the building where I work.

They trim up nciely to make a hedge.

These plants (Osmanthus fragrans) are among the earliest to bloom, and make January and February very pleasant throughout the southern USA. The sweet olive has beautiful green leaves, making it a nice hedge plant or small tree, depending on how you prune it.

Just one tiny flower can be enjoyed for hours.

But the best thing about the plant is its flowers. They are tiny and white, and grow in not-very-showy clusters. But who cares what they look like! They smell fantastic. They are sweet, but not overly so, like many white flowers. I took one tiny blossom back to my desk and enjoyed it all afternoon.

People aren’t the only ones to enjoy the sweet olives, too. I saw many honeybees pollinating away, and even some houseflies enjoying the nectar.

I smelled this one. It smelled great. I like those landscape roses, even if they are getting a bit ubiquitous.

My nose continued to be happy as I walked around the building, because the roses are continuing to bloom, as they have all winter (they are that nonstop kind). The good news is that they do have a nice scent, though not as strong as a damask rose.

They call it sweet alyssum because it smells very sweet. And is a great edging annual.

Then, as I continued my walk, I smelled something very, very sweet. I looked down, and there, smiling at me, were some beautiful sweet alyssum. They were planted with dianthus, so, if you lean over before walking in the neighborhing buildings, you get a sweet, spicy mix. (Aside: I always find the purple ones more strongly scented, which is also true of solid purple pansies and the purple variety of lantana, which smell fantastic if you get close to them.)

The different textures in these bushes helped me forget about the cigarette I had been smelling.

Luckily, most of my other senses also got to enjoy themselves, since all kinds of plants are budding out, and there are always songbirds trying to drown out the traffic noise from US 183. The last part of my walk was bad for the nose, though, since a guy got ahead of me and lit a cigarette. That gives me the wrong kind of sensual overeload. I always wonder if smokers realize how many other people their habit can affect? (I know some do!)

Bird News

Speaking of birds, I have good news. The Swainson’s hawk pair that nested at the office appear to be back. And I was very surprised to see a caracara (Mexican Eagle) fly over outside my work window this morning. You don’t often see them in such an urban setting.

Sunday of Amazement

Wow, yesterday was just one amazing discovery after another around the ranch! The wind finally died down, which made it much easier to be outside, so I engaged in a lot of running around with dogs and exploring things, once the cattle moved off and the cattle torture ended.

This is the “springy” area of the woods. It’s on a slope, and the water drains down to the Hermits Stream.

Our neighbor Mike came over earlier than usual in the afternoon, so that we could go check out a few things in the woods. Of course, the dogs went, too, which gave them more opportunities to irritate the cattle. Sigh. But the good news is that we found an old food storage container that had slipped out of Lee’s hands and disappeared into the woods during the summer, when you can’t see a thing in there.

There is a lot of moss, algae, and other moisture-loving foliage here. I wonder what the area would look like if cattle weren’t stomping all over it.

But, WAY more important was that I confirmed my suspicions that the last remnant of the big drought that was going on when we first came to this area is going away. It’s quite clear that our springs are back!

I’d been seeing a wet area from our side of the fence, but we wanted to see it up close. Sure enough, water is seeping out of the ground and heading toward the stream. I’d heard that there were springs in there before, but other than getting a little muddier than the rest of the area, it hadn’t showed any signs of flowing.

Carlton investigates the babbling brook. The tree bridge is getting less and less sturdy as time goes by.

We also noted that the little brook/stream that flows into Walker’s Creek is flowing pretty briskly. Two things could cause that. Either the pond is still getting water from runoff and flowing through the arroyo, OR the other spring is working. Mike and I confirmed that the culvert is barely dripping, so that brisk flow of water must mean that the big, deep spring is flowing on its own again. Hooray! There’s water under the ground again!

Heron or egret footprints in the mud.

Now that the flooding has died down, we can see lots of tracks in the mud that the flooding deposited. One thing is for sure, those herons are BIG birds.

And the chickens?

I am very happy to report that the longer days, increased food, and/or less owl stress have combined to ramp up egg production. We were afraid that the one who was still laying had been the last owl victim, but, hooray, we had three eggs today, and since two of them were white, there are at least two laying now! Of course, we are down to a dozen chickens, so we won’t have what we did before, but it’s an improvement.

THREE eggs! And the beautiful cutting board the neighbors gave us for Christmas.

And, by the way, Mandi is ordering some netting to help foil the predators.

And more mooning

A picture-perfect end to the day.

We got back home and sat on the porch (it was cool, but not too cold) to enjoy blackberry wine and yet another lovely sunset, which I managed to frame in the porch, like a painting on a wall.

Here comes the moon!

Then we turned around to see the super moon rising in the east. Wow, that thing was big. My phone doesn’t do very good eclipse photos, but the red moon was very cool. I wish that happened more often. You know that sight must have been confusing to ancient people who didn’t know how the sun. moon, and earth coordiate!

Chicken Update?

Feed us!

Just wanted to share that the owl seems to have literally flown the coop, and we haven’t lost a chicken in a couple of weeks.

As you can see, they are looking happy. Buckbeak is glowing! We have at least ten left.

  • And we are now getting ONE egg per day! 100% improvement over zero! Let’s hope things keep picking up from here. I’m still looking into coops, but it’s sorta complicated.
  • Other bird news

    I saw a cool bird sight on my way back from feeding the chickens yesterday. I stopped to punch in the gate code and heard a lot of commotion. Much screeching and cawing. I saw half a dozen of our large crows yelling at a hawk, who was yelling back.

    It looked like the hawk had robbed the crows of something. The crows took turns pecking until one of them got the hawk away from crow territory. That crow kept circling back and making it very clear that Crows Rule!

    Late-breaking news

    Look at this Austin sunset! We’re having a bumper crop this year!

    Not So Cheerful News

    RIP Big Red. You were a good guy.

    When I went to feed the chickens yesterday, for the first time since I got back from vacation, I was sad to see that one of the latest victims to our resident owl was Big Red, the rooster with the red eyes. He just loved sunflower seeds, and Mandi said she realized he was gone when no one came to the stable for their treats.

    I’m really sad about the chicken situation, though we did get the first egg in many weeks yesterday. The only way to keep the owl out would be to cover the chicken yard, but it’s not my chicken yard, and the person who built it is not interested in adding netting. Plus, my house is too far away to keep an eye out on the poor things.

    Here’s Buckbeak and the hens back when we actually had white ones.

    That leaves me and Mandi with the not-so-fun task of coming in every few days to find we are down another chicken. I feel like it’s sort of cruel to subject them to nightly terror like that. I am also not thrilled with having to dispose of them, even though I am trying to be the “tough ranch person.”

    Before you ask, the chickens are much too old to eat, not that I want to eat them; that’s why they are now MY chickens. My former co-owner wanted to make them into sausage, and I didn’t. Who knows, maybe he had the better idea after all.

    So, if you would like a nice chicken, I have a variety to choose from. We still have a few Americaunas, some red ones, some black ones, and two black-and white ones. And Buckbeak, the older rooster, is still with us.

    I don’t have any chicken transportation devices, but I’d give you food and stuff if you want to get them. I am sure they will start laying again soon, now that the days are getting longer and if they aren’t so worried about owls. I really like these guys, as you can see in my first chicken post.

    It’s illegal to kill an owl, you know. I learned that in Master Naturalist Class! I’d just prefer not to provide them with so much food. There are plenty of free doves out there.

    Future Plans

    Both Mandi and I want chickens, so I hope to be able to get a secure chicken house with a large covered run closer to my house. Alfred might be able to help guard them, and it would be easy for me to lock them inside at night. Mandi hopes to put a chicken house on her property, too. I hope this is soon. I miss sharing eggs with my coworkers.