Oh, those dang chickens are always up to something. I think I get the whole chicken-mama thing figured out, and they come up with a way to stump me. Some things are good! For example, I am getting four eggs many days, out of five hens. I’m sure I’d have five, if I could find where the hell Bertie Lee is laying her eggs now. I should have just let her keep laying in that corner of the garage; at least I could find them, then. It’s like a never-ending Easter egg hunt!
Now, however, three or four of them have decided they don’t like to sleep in the chicken coop. Night before last, I only ended up with two hens safely in the house. The rest were all somewhere in the garage. Worst, Springsteen has taken to sleeping on my car. This is not good for one’s British Racing Green paint job.
On the other hand, Springsteen does give me a lovely pinky-brown egg nearly every day, so she’s not all bad. It’s funny, though, because she used to be the hen who didn’t leave the henhouse! Something must be up.
I already shared that Bruce, the rooster, likes to hang out on top of the garage fridge. Apparently, that’s where he roosts when I can’t get him inside where he belongs. I really don’t want my last male fowl to die saving the flock!
I can never find where Star roosts, nor Bertie Lee, when I can’t get her inside. Buttercup and Hedley (the antisocial one) usually go to bed like good girls.
I wish I had some help in figuring out what’s bothering the chickens about their lovely coop. Is it that the last thing that attacked over there scared them? Are they pissed that I kept them confined for a week? Umm, are the eggs I set in their boxes to see if they’d hatch starting to smell bad? (That’s a distinctly stinky possibility, though I don’t smell them.) Do I need to put in more pine shavings again? That may be, too, since there is more poop there due to them sleeping inside rather than on the branches, like they used to do. And why don’t they sleep on the branches? Ah, they seem to not like one of the grains in their seven-grain scratch. Maybe they are avoiding it? Or is it the bees? Thankfully, the bees seem to have found another source of nutrition and are leaving their food alone. That was weird.
I am no match for the mind of a domestic fowl, that’s for sure. I’m glad they like the garage, sort of, but would prefer to keep the cars and tools free of bird poop.
Back to cute little animals and ranching activities, which everyone can enjoy! I still have seven outdoor birds, five laying hens, Bruce the rooster, and Gertie the Guinea. They always surprise and entertain me, as you can tell from how many blog posts I manage to take up with Poultry Tales. But, they are my buddies!
I mentioned earlier this week that they’re creatures of habit. But, sometimes they do change their minds. All of last year, the chickens preferred to sleep on the branches in the chicken run. They would all line up, and when we had lots of them, it was quite a sight. Now that it’s winter, though, many of them have decided to roost in the roosting area of their henhouses. That’s all fine. I’m sure it’s warmer and dryer.
But, when the chickens spend more time in the henhouse, there gets to be more poop in there. The nest boxes had become noticeably more poopy as of this week. I’d prefer cleaner eggs, and I’m pretty sure the hens prefer cleaner nests, since I found an egg just sitting on the roosting area yesterday.
So, today I put on a mask (hey, at least I own a lot of them!) and cleaned out their little world. I didn’t realize how much bedding and such was in there until I removed it all. The tub got pretty heavy! I’m hoping we can use the material in compost.
Naturally, it was harder than it could have been, since all the things I could find to scoop out the material were exactly as wide as a nest box. I know I own a bunch of garden trowels, but they must be put away very well.
As soon as I was finished, Springsteen, the homebody, RAN in and checked out the white henhouse. Then she RAN to the red one. Much clucking occurred. She’s a good housekeeper. Or maybe it was her egg-laying time, since she hadn’t laid one yet.
While it was a messy job, I enjoyed it, because I got to spend time with my bird friends and Vlassic. I hope you enjoy these close-ups of some of the younger chickens. It’s neat to see how they change as they grow up.
And can you believe good ole Bertie is over a year old? We will have had her a year next month, and she was four months old when we got her.
Yesterday was just beautiful, sunny with pleasant temperatures, though a little breezy. It was a perfect day to do some more work on the chicken run. When we last saw it, the run was squared off, the roof frame was up and some cover was on it. Today, the chickens have a nice, big roof that will protect them a bit from rain, and most important, give them some shade in the summer.
After that, things got even more fun. The water dispenser has been repaired, and even more fantastic, it’s level, so water dispenses through all the holes. I’ve detected chicken action at it, so they know it’s there.
Next, CC built a sturdy device to hold their newly improved food dispensers. Now, the food doesn’t spill out, and there are lots of holes for them to eat out of. Plus, the food is in the middle of the run, which means it’s way less likely to get wet unless there’s a particularly driving rain.
With the basics taken care of, we had to make sure to provide fun and entertainment for our fowl friends. What could be more fun than a double-decker swing, right?
We realize that if there is one on top and one on the bottom, there may be some poop collateral damage, but what the heck. It’s fun!
We also added a few more perches for them, and I put a branch in there, so they will have something fun to peck on (and maybe it will attract some bugs to eat).
At the moment, the infirmary/baby cage is not in the run. We plan to put it in when we need to, and surround it with protection, like more tin, to keep young and injured birds safe.
We have also been discussing getting yet another dog run to turn into an area for new chickens, and making a place for chicks, with a heat lamp. Buying all these adult chickens is getting expensive. But, we plan to keep them inside for a while, to deter the chicken hawk and teach Bertie to lay in the coop, not the garage. This explains why we put so many entertainment items in the run.
Now that things are pretty well set up (I’m so grateful for it!), and Springsteen (the black Jersey Giant) appears to have gone broody on us, I decided to just let her try to raise some chicks (yes, it’s winter, but we will put the family somewhere warm if babies show up and it gets cold).
This may give us some less expensive chickens, if it works. It can’t hurt to try. Plus, they may lay cool colored eggs, if we get any to adulthood, with Bruce the Easter Egger as the Baby Daddy!
Thanks to all of you who put up with my chicken posts. These birds are sure entertaining, even if they are hard to keep alive.
There hasn’t been an update on our ranch citizens in a while, and tonight’s sunset inspired me to write one.
Last night’s solstice sunset was apparently amazing, but I was busy lighting candles and missed it. Luckily a friend took great photos for me to enjoy.
As the sun disappeared it looked like a tribute to the universities I attended (orange and blue!)
Anyway, most of the ranch residents are doing well, but we’ve discovered a new chicken killer, our resident harrier. No wonder they call them chicken hawks. Sigh. But, as always, we have a plan. Since that hawk only goes after them out in the lawn, we’re going to keep the chickens cooped up for a while.
The newly arranged coop is getting its fancy new roof. Once it’s done, the residents will get locked in. That will annoy Gertie the Guinea a lot, but we want him alive! And hopefully it will remind my buddy Bertie where she should lay her eggs.
And to end on a happier note, I got home early enough today to play with Apache and Fiona. Apache was thrilled, and showed it his usual way.
We got to go for a nice walk, and then I got him to run and trot around for a while. He seems in good shape.
As we were trotting, Fiona got all excited and started galloping around us in circles, hee-hawing away. After four or five circuits, Apache and I turned around to trot back. Fiona then zoomed into the race and began bellowing at Ralph’s cows.
I was wondering if I would ever get her back in the pen, but when Apache and I went in, she barreled in with us. I guess the both had some fun! So did I.
Been wondering what’s going on at the chicken house? Well, now that the family is reunited at the ranch, we’re working on renovating the chicken coop area. Stage One is complete.
The Caso guys spent a lot of time on Thursday reconfiguring the space to be one big open coop. The pointy end is gone, which will make chicken wrangling easier. While we still have the same birds, it will all be open. That will give them room to roam while we shut them in for a week or two to remind them to lay their eggs in the nest boxes, not the garage.
The new nest box we made a few months ago is now attached to the coop, so it will be a safer place to roost and lay eggs. The run area got a frame up to hold a nice new roof for shade and protection, which will be phase 2.
We will have the water dispenser and food dishes fixed up soon, and it will be the envy of Greater Walker’s Creek Community, I’m sure. I know the chickens, the guinea, and I all appreciate the effort it takes!
So, how did that chicken coop project we started yesterday come out?
Well, while I was crackling the doors, Chris finished the roof and ventilation area.
Of course, it needed steps up to the roosting and nesting area.
I got busy using up the extra white paint to cover most of the wood surfaces. I left a little paint free to look rustic. I may paint it later. Maybe red!
While I painted, the ramp got built, so I painted that last. It’s just got to dry then we can set it up.
Next thing I knew, Chris was working with PVC pipe. I looked up and, boom, he’d made chicken feeders he’d seen on Pinterest.
We took them over and set them up on one of the few walls that aren’t moving soon. I put food in them (and the dispenser worked!).
Next, we herded all the chickens into the feeding area. They found the water holder then noticed the food dish had moved. It only took a minute or two for Steen to figure out the feeder. Others joined in!
Good news at last: Fancy Pants MAY be getting les broody. We are seeing her out more and more. Sigh. Just in time for fertilized eggs. Ha!
Chris and Suna create desktops and chicken coops from scraps and leftovers.
One thing’s for sure, the hermits of Hermits’ Rest sure know how to celebrate without leaving the property. I’m proud of us.
Most of the day, Chris and I worked on two projects, a second hen house and nest box, and my new desk.
My project was the desk. First I spent a couple of hours sanding the doors, one of which is the desk top and one the “modesty panel.” I’m so modest, you see. I just wanted to rough them up a bit.
By the way, the doors came from the Pope Residence, and were a bathroom and closet door, so smaller than standard.
The desk top was painted white. It’s paint was peeling and hard to sand, so it took a while. I forgot to take a “before” picture. I’ll blame the heat. I did really well not overheating today!
No doubt you notice the doors don’t match. It’s okay. This interesting shade of coral red (made by mixing my bathroom tomato red with the red from our Christmas float) will be an undercoat.
Both doors look nice and “rustic” so I’m happy. Tomorrow the MAGIC will happen, so come back for Day 2 of the door desk paint project!
Meanwhile, Chris was finishing the nest boxes he started, which are nicely hinged now.
Then he got to work turning a shipping crate that held the tile for our house 5 years ago into a chicken coop. He added a roosting shelf, and attached the nest boxes.
The outside he covered in more of the tin we used in the Pope Residence.
By the time we called it quits, he’d measured the roof and got the supports up. The hardware cloth (wire mesh) is ready for the ventilation openings. This should also get done tomorrow!
We also hope to get more shade cover for the birds and to enlarge the pens, like I mentioned earlier. That will keep us busy at home for another day!
Did I mention that these projects only cost us labor? All materials are scraps or leftover stuff from other projects. Fun doesn’t have to be expensive! It does help to have a creative and talented team lead, though. Go team!
I was a little worried that we are pampering the chickens and guineas. For example, I wandered out into the woods today to make more perches and shade for the chickens.
And Chris made a new shelf and perch for the guineas. They have really grown since we got them!
I feel much better now, though. I got two books of chicken projects at Tractor Supply, and they had some of the most indulgent yet cute projects imaginable. One has 40 projects; one has 50. I guess their editors had the same idea.
One of the authors, Lisa Steele, who is apparently a big chicken blogger,* puts curtains on all her hens’ nest boxes, because some are shy. Lordy. And she makes them salves and feeds them herbs. And builds many adorable hen swings.
I did enjoy the projects in both books (Janet Garman is a little more serious but also obviously LOVES chickens) and got some good ideas, like making a low perch for the Jersey Giants. Right now Hedy loves it the most, followed by Henley and Bruce. The young hens do love all the new things. They still like to play.
Oh! I forgot to share that last night I let Ginger and Bertie run around and chase grasshoppers for a while. Lee and I were mighty entertained. Those gals are good! Even Clarence came out and caught some. I got them all back in pretty easily once they had their fill.
I hope we can let them out more often. As long as the big dogs are inside, they’re fine. Vlassic and Gracie just watch like we do!
Nope. Our chickens aren’t pampered. Just fun.
*Like I can talk. I’m a not-big sort of ranching sort of venting blogger.
It’s a rooster, of course. Since we are down 3 hens (we lost our injured Jewel last week) I wanted more. Bird and Bee Farm keeps running out of chickens, so I despaired of getting more any time soon. But yesterday we got a call from Cindy Rek, who said our turn had come, because they finally have baby guinea fowl (called keats), which Kathleen has been wanting.
We hadn’t expected them so soon, so we’ve been scrambling to get stuff set up for them ever since. With a plan in our minds, Chris and I set out for the farm so we could arrive by 8 am. That is dedication. But that way we were the first to get there.
The Wildscape my Master Naturalist friend, Catherine Johnson, works so hard on is really coming into its own. So many flowers and creative touches. She’s started a southwestern garden and a moon garden with all white flowers.
After petting the Rek’s new collie puppy, Dixie, we went in for chickens and guineas. Very quickly, Chris came over with a box of ten little darlings. Five are lavender and five some other fancy color. They’re just a few weeks old and like to Peep. So I want to name them all Peep, so we can later chill with our Peeps.
I had more trouble, since I wanted older pullets. Well, they are selling them so fast that the oldest they had were 3.5 months old. I realized we’d have to separate the current hens from the new ones. Time for Plan B!
I ended up with two very black Jersey Giants (supposed to be very nice) that I had to name Spring and Steen. Jersey girls. We also got a gorgeous Silver Wyandotte. Her feathers are gorgeous, black with white tips. Her name is Patti. Mrs Springsteen.
They begged me to take a rooster, so I picked a flashy Easter Egger, in the hopes that maybe Fancy Pants can raise us some babies with olive eggs. Guess what I named him? Bruce. He has some hilarious whiskers around his face. We are probably getting another rooster from a friend. I guess he will be either Clarence or Little Steven.
There is another pair. They are Ancona, a pretty breed that apparently has red eyes. They are mostly black but have random white tips. Ours have a few white feathers, too. I read that they get more white with each moult. I ran out of E Street Band enthusiasm and named them Hedy and Hedley.
Now that we had chickens, we had to get another dog pen to put the teen chickens in, and a place for the guinea fowl to grow in. And feeders and waterers. Each group eats different food, of course. It only took two different Tractor Supply stores, thanks to the nice clerk in Rockdale who found us one in College Station. That was a nice store. It did get tiresome wearing my mask, but I looked like a cowgirl.
Our other errand was to pick up some stuff from the John Deere store. Only it wasn’t outside the store like they said it would be. It’s okay, we enjoyed driving around looking at farms.
Back at the Hermits’ Rest we went into bird housing overdrive. Chris got the guinea chicks in the big dog pen we got for them, only to watch them squeezing out. Oops. Luckily we’d bought chicken wire in case we needed it. While Lee and I chased the last escapee, the wire went up. Whew.
They loved their water and food dishes and soon were falling all over each other eating and drinking. After that, the babies napped a lot.
Meanwhile, much to the annoyance of Ginger, Bertie Lee, and Fancy Pants, Chris temporarily confined them the a small part of their coop. Then he let the black chickens out. Everyone had food and water, but the Springsteen family hid in their box for a long time.
Lee and Chris quickly built the new addition, which is bigger than the original because of how he arranged the dog pen panels.
Next, we took some of the tin left over from the Pope house project and made some shade panels for the original section, in the west, and a bit of rain cover for the new addition. They needed more shade.
After putting in some roosting branches/boards the new group was released there and the old ones got their house back. No doubt they are jealous of the grass the new chickens have. Don’t worry, I gave them some.
The black chickens had never seen grass or treats before, but they figured it out fast. By the time I went inside, they were happily eating, drinking and pecking.
We found some wood to make a couple more nest boxes and a second little coop for when the new guys start laying. They will be okay with their cardboard box temporarily.
I can’t believe Chris got as much done today as he did! Instant chicken quarters! I’m very grateful for his creativity and willingness to do this, since it was NOT on the original weekend plan.
It’s more like this: you have to convince them the water is there.
The hens have had their new water trough a few days now, but no one had seen them use it. I’d let their old water dispenser in the coop, so they could transition, but they kept going up and banging on it.
Jewel, who somehow managed to injure her leg, liked the drip area. I guess it’s her hydrotherapy spa.
Anyway, today I decided to do some water education. I turned the tap on and let the water run. Everyone was intrigued, judging from the clucks and tilted heads. Even Fancy Pants was there, taking her evening brooding break.
I let the water run until it overflowed, hoping they’d see that the pipe produced water. It worked! They all ran over and poked at the runoff. Jewel immediately set herself in the biggest wet area. Still, no one had used the trough.
I ran the water a little more, and Bertie stuck her beak in and drank. After another minute, Ginger did it. And even Fancy Pants got a big drink before retiring to her throne.
I left to get them some dandelions, and on my way back I saw voluntary drinking. And Jewel has positioned herself right next to a water outlet, so she can rest and heal. Awwww.
We hope she feels better by the time we get her new boyfriend next week!
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