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!
I hope all of you who celebrate Independence Day in The US have a safe and fun holiday. And now for the news update.
Guinea Drama Part 2
I went out to feed the birds yesterday, and lo and behold, there were only five guinea keats. I fed them and was confused. So when Chris got home, I asked if we weren’t supposed to have seven. He said yep. Crap.
I then looked more carefully at their cage. Since it got put in the chicken pen, it’s been on grass. That made what WERE small holes into bigger holes. Two of the little dickenses had escaped.
About that time, Alfred skipped by looking very happy. Well, there was one keat. We still haven’t found the other.
As we were standing around lamenting the loss of the guinea fowl, Lee asked when we could combine the two chicken groups. I said now, I guess. So everyone is together now.
The older ones definitely are the bosses, but they aren’t attacking or anything, other than Clarence, showing what a manly rooster he is. He and Bruce are okay.
This means we can add our new nesting boxes and expand the run some more. We’re working on that, and more shade, today.
How’s Apache, You Ask?
I’ve been walking him a little bit every day. Today Chris came over to observe his gait, and we are pleased to report he’s walking pretty normally.
So we let him and Fiona enjoy some green grass and loving for a while. They’re so good, just relaxing with us.
And you can sure tell Apache has lost weight. That’s one fine butt with no belly showing through!
And of course we need to end with the cutest thing ever.
Ah, ranching. It’s never dull. So, a couple of nights ago, something got into the guinea pen and did away with two light ones and one dark one. Damn.
It’s a real murder mystery, because whatever it was got into the pen somehow and broke their necks. One’s head was out of the chicken wire, but the rest weren’t. It’s as if something got them but couldn’t get them out!
Whatever it was either had to climb up high to get in, or fly, because they were on a shipping crate. And the holes in their cage were small.
In any case, they gave up, but left a scent that the dogs all smelled, especially Gracie that morning.
The panicked flock is now well inside the chicken run, where Bruce is guarding them, along with his gals. They are happy to have grass and bugs to enjoy, and they can bond with the chickens.
Those are all fine. Clarence is very happy now, and filling out nicely. His green tail feathers are so pretty.
The old ones do seem okay with their dude now.
The new ones are getting more and more accustomed to us feeding and coming in. They run around after bugs and away from Bruce.
They don’t eat out of my hand like the other three hens, but Patty is especially friendly. She’s also very beautiful, even though she’s still the smallest.
We hope to finish their nest boxes soon, since they are maturing, and to join the two runs. Next is another expansion. Chicken World will be glorious.
No, this is not a report about a book I read in high school that’s eerily reminiscent of today. I’m just updating on the ranch animals.
We continue to monitor the heck out of him. He’s walking fairly normally, so we will slowly start exercising him. Yesterday Sara and I walked him around for about ten minutes. And yes, he stuffed as much green grass in himself as he could.
He’s on a different feed, new supplements and the Buteless herbs. And he gets his coronal band painted most days. Pampered!
As for Fiona, she loathes sunscreen. Sigh.
Today we’re going to get a lot of straw that we can leave out for them to chomp during the day, since Apache and Fiona are in the dry lot a while longer.
The Other Horses
Today I tried a real ride on Lakota, the dreamy palomino. It was interesting to ride such a well trained horse. He sure backed up well, and he trotted over obstacles!
The ride was helpful for me, because I was able to convince him eating grass was not on the agenda. And my use of the reins got better, thanks to Sara’s help. Making strides!
Spice is getting fungus medication and it’s making her look worse, so far. But that may be appropriate. She and Lakota are now eating down the grass in the small paddock, so it will be bad enough for poor Apache, eventually. Ugh.
The guinea keats are growing like crazy and starting to lose hair on their necks, as you can see here.
They’re still pretty ugly, but will be beautiful adults.
Clarence the rooster has finally been accepted by Bertie and Ginger. He’s usually out with them now. I just hope he starts fertilizing them soon. Poor Fancy Pants keeps brooding.
The others are developing personalities. Hedy seems to be the boss. I see her eating oyster shells, so I hope that means she’s a hen. Her tail is suspiciously attractive.
And Bruce never ceases to amuse me. He’s bossing like a boss and fluffing his crazy feather variety all the time. And trying to crow (no luck yet from either rooster).
Really, I do understand why people are being cautious these days. The rate of coronavirus infections in Milam County has skyrocketed. I have been limiting where I go, and even wearing my mask to cross the street. I ordered a lot of new masks today, too, since I’m wearing them more and getting them dirty.
My family and the companies I am affiliated with are all being very careful. There have been two people die who work for my Austin employer, though I do not know what caused it. Sure makes you pause and want to hug your loved ones, though you can’t.
What I can do is tell you some fun/mildly interesting stories about animals and share some pictures! Okay!
First, all the birds around our Cameron offices have been continuing their festival of babies. The mockingbirds finally left their parents this week. I miss them, but Lee says now we have a carport squirrel. The swallows are down to two babies who are about ready to fledge. And the every-valiant house finches re-built their nest on the OTHER side of the garage and are sitting on eggs.
I love that nature just keeps plugging along. Some things just don’t change.
One thing that doesn’t change is Alfred and his abundance of hair. We had him pretty well cleaned out, but yesterday we noticed Harvey was getting lots of hair out of him. So, Kathleen sat and patiently removed hair for about ten minutes, before Alfred ran out of patience.
The rest of the night, if Kathleen even LOOKED like she was heading toward him, he ran away. Not much makes him run. We laughed a lot, and laughing is good. I hope some day we can work on his other side!
I got a new animal sighting today, too! I saw my first jackrabbit in Milam County, right on the ranch. Someone had said they saw a really big bunny, so I think this was the one. Those are some big ears, but I felt a lot better with my ID when a couple of local friends confirmed my sighting. I am happy to see them and hope their population grows.
In horse news, Apache is walking close to normally, for which we are all very grateful. He, Fiona, and Big Red the chicken are all getting tired of living in the tiny pen not sure why Big Red is always there, but maybe she thinks shes part of the herd.
And in bird news, the guinea fowl are growing like crazy, and the new chickens are, too. The ladies are growing in their combs. Clarence, the newest rooster, has not won over Ginger and Bertie Lee yet, but its getting better every day. Thank goodness!
We think Bruce is about to get his crow going, which will be fun. At the moment he makes some funny sounds we cannot really identify.
So, that is the non-COVID news from around here. Office update soon!
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.
Our friends the Lands had a crowded chicken pen and one too many roosters. So, this evening I headed over to their amazing Victorian house, which they are renovating one room at a time.
I was sort of unprepared, because I thought our chicken transportation box was in the garage, but it had been taken to the dumpster. Sara suggested I take one of the feed buckets and cover it (by the way, Apache seemed a little better today).
Once I got there I realized the bucket was not going to work. Luckily, Kris had a moving box, so he set about to catching the rooster. There were a lot of chickens in the same size coop as our white one and they all hid in the back. So I stomped around and scared them to the front. In the box the Rhode Island Red went, and I drove him home.
We wanted to separate the rooster (Clarence) but our piece of fence had been used in the new pen. So, we tried putting him in with the young chickens.
That did not work well. Bruce was not happy. The pullets kept getting jumped on. Not good.
So Chris just picked Clarence up and put him in with the older chickens. That went way better. He ate some and said hi to the hens. Soon Ginger let him know that she is Boss Chicken.
All the big chickens then proceeded to chase Gracie. They did teamwork! A bonding moment.
By the time we left, Clarence had discovered he can fly, and was happily on the roost branch.
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!
Even though it was really, really hot yesterday, I continued on my quest to work with Apache on his issues with going where he is asked to go.
I really figure that just the time spent with him would do me good, and I was happy to see Craig Moore, a young horse trainer in May, Texas who I follow, echoing that. He wrote about how he’d never thought just hanging around with a horse would mean much, but he tried it yesterday, sitting in a chair and reading on his phone in the pen. The Mustang who’d only been with them a day or two came up to him and checked him out, even sniffing his face. Just the quiet presence helped. If it even helps people who win the Extreme Mustang Makeover, it has to help me and my champion grass chewer!
So, Mandi and I got together again last night, and after spending some time grooming Apache and Fiona (and feeding Big Red, the hen), we decided (with not much planning or forethought) to take him to the other place that gives him trouble, down the row of evergreen trees behind our “training pasture” or “outdoor arena,” which is towards the neighbors’ house.
He did better than yesterday, for sure, but did try to turn back, especially under those scary high-voltage wires. Each time he did it, I followed my plan and stopped him, then gently turned him in the direction I wanted him to go in. He always responded to my touch command, which was good.
Two things helped. I’d remembered to bring a carrot stick with me, and I used a shorter lead rope. I keep tripping on the really long one, because I can’t keep it all nicely curled up while walking, using the stick, and avoiding Apache’s feet. Both these things made a big difference. The stick helped keep him going the way I wanted, and after the scary place, he walked normally the rest of the way down the treeline, calmly turned around, and did not rush going back.
Unfortunately, we didn’t realize that the fact that Vlassic and Fiona followed us would be a problem, and we’ve been asked not to bring dogs down there again by Sara and Ralph. I didn’t see or hear their dogs, so I hadn’t realized there was a problem, and Vlassic stuck right with us, I thought. Anyway, we have plenty of other places to walk, or we can lock Vlassic in the tack room if there’s a reason to head toward the Wild Type Ranch area. We want to be good neighbors!
Since that had gone fairly well, we determined we would do the race again. At first, it was like yesterday, but this time I never let him turn completely around, and I used the carrot stick and my hand to get him facing forward again. If he got wound up, we just stopped for a while. It didn’t take too long before I realized he was walking normally again. HOORAY!
We made it through the scary puddles, past the scary gate, and down to the shady area. The wind suddenly whipped up and Apache went to attention. Mandi asked him what he smelled, and he answered her as best as he could.
We then happily walked back, enjoying a breeze and some dark clouds. Suddenly I looked up and there was a partial rainbow. It absolutely made our day complete, as we smiled and laughed with each other.
We got back, and once again marveled that Fiona now follows me when I hold out my hand, and goes nicely into her pen. I guess the donkey’s getting well trained, too!
And Chicken News
Meanwhile, back at the chicken coop, Chris finished our new watering trough for the hens. This will make it a LOT easier to give them water, since I just have to turn on the hose, right next to the coop.
This comes at a good time, since Jewel (the black one) seems to have somehow broken a leg! She can get around, but anything that makes life easier on her will be helpful, poor dear.
Fancy Pants is STILL broody, but we may have a new man for them, this lovely young Copper Maran who needs a home. I hope it makes Fancy Pants happy, and isn’t too hard on Jewel. If it is, we’ll separate them. We hope we will be able to get more chickens soon…
I’m looking forward to today and to the weekend, to see if I can keep building on the progress with Apache. I hope to have something good to show Sara!