I don’t cry much anymore. I used to cry multiple times a day, but I hadn’t in months, until yesterday. I thought the chickens were acting a bit off, and when I walked into the coop, I saw why.
There lay one of the older black hens, with our dear rooster, Buckbeak, lying at her side. I screamed, “Nooo!” as if that would fix things. It never does.
I was pretty stoic when all the other roosters and so many hens were attacked and killed over the winter. This one was different, since I Buckbeak was one of the oldest chickens in the flock, and I had known him since right after he hatched, around three years ago. He outlived all the other roosters, and was always there, protecting his “ladies.” Or trying to make more chickens with them. Ahem.
It’s been a fun weekend here at the Hermits’ Rest. I managed to go horseback riding twice, which is rare, and Apache and I had lots of fun.
Sara set up cones, so we got to ride in patterns. He did way better on Day 2, like he figured it out. I also prevented him from eating thistles unless it was my idea.
Today we went into the pasture where a lot of cattle were. Spice did a great job herding them, and Apache managed not to panic when a big mama came toward him. Baby steps.
Meanwhile, Fiona was “helping” Tyler work on his new vegetable garden. And hee-hawing. He has patiently built a fence and covered it, to keep the chickens out. That’s nice of him.
Even more exciting was the fact that the sheep’s owner had come to pick them up to shear them. She got the male in her SUV but the ewe would NOT be caught. She thinks she’s a cow, dang it. In the end, they let Sheep Man back out. That’s one for them!
As for the chickens, they were excited this weekend by food fun. I got them some dried mealworms, which they love. They’re sort of creepy, though, because they look sort of alive when you pour them. Plus, they got even more excited when I bought them veggie leftovers from the dinner I was cooking.
The it was my turn to get excited! The chocolate brown eggs have started! It’s amazing how tiny pullet eggs are. I want to save the shell!
Now to eat my chicken and dumplings. Dumplings are secretly flour tortillas cut up. Chicken is not from my hens!
Yesterday was the final day of the great chicken coop cleanup effort. Before that, though, I had to clean my dang horse, who has started to shed his thick winter coat. Fiona the mini-donkey did not want to be left out, either.
It was too cold for me to ride, but I wanted to hang out with Sara and brush Apache out. Of course, Fiona had to come along. Sara had bought these new miracle tools, which look suspiciously like something you’d clean your barbecue grill off with. I tried it out on the very dirty Apache, and wow, did a LOT of long white hairs come off. He seemed to like the way the cleaning tool felt, too. Neither Spice nor Fiona were shedding like Apache was. Must be the Arabian in him.
While I was at it, I also trimmed his tail, since it was reaching the ground again and getting all dirty. I hope he appreciated it.
I kept having to go back into the tack room to get things. I heard a noise, and there was my little “helper” wanting to come on in and check out the food dishes full of beet pulp that were soaking.
When I told her to move, she happily went over to help get rid of that last bale of hay that was hanging around from when the horses were in the corral. Such a little darling.
Also had hen helpers
Later in the afternoon, I came back to finish cleaning out the chicken coop. I was very proud of myself for emptying out all 24 nest boxes and replacing the old mulch with new pine shavings, which are what the new chickens are used to, anyway. The job was made both harder and more fun by the new hens, who were very interested in “helping” me.
In fact, after I finished, I was picking up more glass off the ground, and Fluffy Butt, the new Barred Rock hen, came up repeatedly, so I fed her some chicken scratch right out of my hand. She was very delicate!
About that time, Mandi and Randy showed up to help me with the floor and parts of the coop I could not reach. A real cleaning ensued, with the feed trough cleaned out, the top of the chick raising area cleaned, and ugh, a dead chicken that got wedged behind the cage removed (one final owl casualty, I guess, though it had been a while).
Mandi also swept all the droppings and stuff off the floor, which now will be some fine mulch, once it composts a bit more. It may be an old coop, but it’s a clean one now.
Once Randy discovered the pieces of glass in the pen, he started picking it up, and by the time we were ready to go, we had another large amount of glass! I sure appreciated the help.
Now I’m just hoping that the new hens and the old hens get along. They definitely hang out in separate groups. But we already have a couple of eggs from the new gals. Hooray!
Previously, I hinted that I was going to add some chickens to our flock. I’d met a woman at the Master Naturalist Christmas party named Cindy Vek, who told me all about her chicken farm, Bird and Bee Farm, between Rockdale and scenic Milano, Texas. I was intrigued.
So, yesterday, Mandi and I fired up the big, black pickup and headed over there, first stopping at Tractor Supply for the supplies I’d needed earlier.
I’m always grateful for map apps. It sure makes finding places way in the middle of the country easier. After a drive through some really pretty Milam County countryside, we found the place, conveniently labeled, as you can see from the first photo.
The Raising Chickens for Dummies book told me that coops of free-range chickens need to be cleaned out every six months to a year, and since I couldn’t remember the last time anyone cleaned it, I decided now is the time.
Besides, the massacre appears to be over, egg production up, and I was thinking about enlarging the flock.
My original plan was to replace all the nest box material, but we couldn’t get any straw yesterday. So, instead I cleaned off all the roosting areas and obviously soiled bedding.
Then I spent an hour raking up sticks and shards of glass in the chicken run. Y’all, there is a serious glass issue in there. Also pieces of crockery. Sara says that they’d gotten rid of all of it when they lived in the cabin next to the chickens. I’m pretty sure the next renters did, too.
As it rains and the chickens peck, more glass comes to the surface. The chickens don’t eat it, but it looks bad.
As I raked and stuffed the mess into two huge feed bags, I pondered why people of the past would just throw bottles out like that.
This is how you know I’m not from around here. It suddenly dawned on me that Elaine Laywell, who used to own this ranch when it was much bigger, told me they’d used the cabin as a hunting cabin.
Well, heck! The hunters probably sat around and lined up bottles and crocks for target practice! There’s probably hundreds more shattered bottles in there.
So, we’re setting a bucket outside the chicken yard, and all of us chicken caregivers will pick up a few pieces every day.
We got bedding in Rockdale today, so we will replace the old stuff tomorrow. Egg-ward and upward!
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.
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.
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!
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.
Today’s 7 is pretty darned good! The owl deterrent measures seem to have helped, and we think it went to other hunting grounds.
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.