What’s Recuperating from the Cold and Snow?

Since the weather is warm and it hasn’t started raining yet, I decided to see how the life around here is faring after last week’s bad weather. The first thing I found was that, indeed, the cold has messed the chickens up. Look what poor Buttercup laid!

Buttercup’s little egg, next to the normal one I found this morning.

Not all is bad for them, though. While they seem to dislike something in their scratch grain mix, the damp weather has been perfect for sprouting whatever it is. That will make good browsing for them or new chickens that we get!

At least the chicken run won’t be all dirt!
We prefer bugs.

I wondered if any insects and such were out, so I was happy to find a checkered butterfly and two lady bugs! I saw a moth, but it was too fast for me!

I found that most of the usual plants for this tome of year were blooming, but I was surprised to see a cranesbill had already managed to produce seeds!

Here are a few of the other blooming plants I saw. It was good to see them recovering.

I also found the wildflowers in good shape, including my favorite yellow daisies and bluebonnets. We’ll have color this year! And speaking of color, the cold gave some unusual leaf colorings.

I heard a lot of frog sounds from across the road, and plenty of birds. I heard a whooshing sound and turned around to see I’d disturbed some ducks on one of the tanks/ponds. I did get a photo of them flying, though I don’t know what kind they are.

Ducks, trees, clouds.

Spring is coming. Winter can’t stay forever. I’m glad I got some entries for iNaturalist today!

Laughing at Ourselves

After all the stress of the last week or so, it feels good to be able to find humor in life again. I must admit that, at a certain point yesterday, I had lost all humor. But, hooray! It’s back now, and I am happily laughing at myself, my animals, and my friends…and of course myself. Here we go.

Yesterday, as it was thawing out like crazy, Sara asked me to come help her and Ralph with some water-related chores. The water in the big, blue barrel where the horses all were, had gotten quite low. Since it was sitting crookedly and was quite full of algae and other yuckiness, it was declared to be a good day to clean it out and stabilize it.

This was not a neat and tidy job. We were in huge mud puddles that had horse/donkey poop in them and were very slick. Sara did a great job making a fairly level spot in the mud where the barrel goes, while Ralph worked on the water supply. Major oops, a water pipe had burst in a very dramatic way, so there will be no using the barn toilet until that can be fixed! That made everything even muddier, and cause cursing and such.

My job was to clean out the barrel itself. I am not the tallest of humans, so I could not reach my hand in and get to the bottom of the barrel. I had to climb in and scrub it with handfulls of hay. I felt ridiculous. Little did I know, I also looked ridiculous, and Ralph got this photo to prove it. I laughed my substantial rear end off when I got this picture!

Now, that’s dignified! You can see the mud that Sara was trying to shovel through, too.

With the trickle of water that was coming out of the hose, we managed to finish cleaning it and get it set up, then we took our muddy selves over and replenished the hay. We actually had fun in between banging on things and getting frustrated!

The barrel filled up eventually and looks pretty good.

My intention is to never have to do that again, so next time I am in Temple, I am going to get some goldfish to put in here! I am pleased to report that our little goldfish made it through the freeze AND the cow pooping in their home and are swimming around happily, with their trough topped off, too.

The tiny orange spot is one of the fish. Note how clear the water is (this was before it refilled, when I had put a few gallons in by hand).

Today was a lot easier in the horse department. Spice and Lakota got moved back to their pasture, and Lakota is still standing, mostly. Fiona and Apache are happy as can be, now that it’s all warm again, and Fiona is still curious about everything. Here she is fascinated by one of the dead birds we keep finding (at least this cowbird isn’t eaten up).

Is that food?

Fiona is a very patient donkey, even when Sara and I got a case of the giggles and put the bird on her head (bird will become falcon food for the neighboring falconers).

I didn’t ask for a crown! Grow up, humans!

Other things to laugh at are the chickens. They are back to hanging out in the garage, and I thought this picture of Bruce and Bertie Lee was cute. I think you can see where poor Bruce’s comb is worse for wear. On the other hand, they all made it!

We like it up here.

It appears that Vlassic found yet another dead bird, a dove, and messed with it. When I came out to see the chickens, they were fighting over it. That seems strange until you remember that chickens are omnivores. At least nothing is going to waste around here…I guess.

A Bertie feather

The chickens got some new food, Grubbly, which has some sort of grubs in it. They didn’t like the plain grubs at first, but now they do. Yesterday I opened the bag of that brand of food and put some in their dishes. It disappeared very quickly, so I think I’ll switch them over. I’m so glad all the animals made it through the challenging time and that all of us still have our senses of humor, even if they are weird.

What’s in the willow tree?

One more piece of cheerful news. Not only is the ice all gone in the trees, but I heard a familiar sound yesterday afternoon and followed it. Sure enough, the male redwing blackbirds have arrived! Maybe it WILL stay warm! (The females were already here.)

NOW We Lose Power!

Now that it’s warming up and the ice is melting, boom. The power went off for us and our closest neighbors. It’s been off close to 24 hours. I guess melting ice isn’t great for power lines, because there are spotty outages all over.

Enjoy a pretty ice photo.

We slept fine last night, and I’ve sure gotten a lot of reading done, in between emergencies and such. the old horse was down yesterday when I went to check. I did manage to give him colic medicine but not correctly, but I tried.

Down horse.

Sara found him up and eating today, though, so I didn’t kill him by not knowing exactly what to do. Whew. And Sara is back, so I don’t have to worry as much. I worry about Lakota.

Up horse

Otherwise it’s okay here. Chickens are alive , though Bruce has some comb damage, poor guy. But they are alive! The dead songbirds still make me sad.

Best chicken photo I could get.

I did take a little walk yesterday and got photos of the sun shining through ice. I think I’ll miss the little ice penises the most. It’s from little stems that stuck up out of the snow. They made me laugh.

Anatomically correct!

It was so shiny still! It doesn’t really come through in the photos, but I’ll share anyway. I’ll write more when we get power. I’m in the car charging things!

Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? To Get to the Garage

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!

Perhaps we’d lay more eggs here in the coop if you’d stop opening the door and stealing our eggs all the time, grumbles Star.

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.

Yuck. Soon as the dang tire is back on the car, I’m moving it, cleaning it, and putting a tarp on it. Geez, that’s gross.
Today’s offering from the Jersey Giant.

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’m outa here. I’m not telling you where I roost OR where I lay, even though I love you.

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.

Bees eating chicken food.

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.

We could be hiding anywhere among all this equipment! Ha ha!

Views of Home

Yesterday I took a few pictures as I approached the ranch on my walk.

Right past the bridge.

It’s a mid-winter view only a property owner could love. There’s last year’s evil Georgia cane, some fencerow trees planted by birds, ugly power lines, and my house way in the distance. But, seeing that bottom land makes my heart swell, because it’s home.

It’s a field, all right.

I see dead trees and pretty live ones. I know the trees provide habitat and cover for wildlife, like the cottontail I saw yesterday and all those sparrows (yesterday I saw gorgeous Harris’s sparrows, chipping sparrows, yellow-throated sparrows, vesper sparrows and more). I love this winter landscape.

When you get to know a place, you see it’s beauty and unique features all year round.

Rooster Digression

Late yesterday afternoon, Lee and I took a walk around the house area, looking at the winter life. When we came back up, we saw the chickens, but heard some loud cackling from inside the garage. Lee said it sounded like someone had laid an egg. But, all the hens were nearby. It had to be Bruce.

How did I get up here? How do I get down?

We walked in and found that, yes, Bruce was making the noise. He was sitting on top of the garage fridge looking confused.

I’m king of the hill!

He does like high spots, like Gertie the guinea did. He just seemed to be having trouble figuring out how to get back down. He did, eventually! He was all cozy in the coop when I went out to shut their door.

I hope your home brings you some joy during this bleak midwinter. Some of my US friends are getting pretty snowfalls!

A Clean Chicken Is a Happy Chicken, Perhaps

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!

Bruce rules the roost with a gentle hand, or wing. His pointy feathers on his neck and back are gorgeous.

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.

A lot of pine shavings and poop (and a piece of wood)

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.

Ooh, aah. We do still need to fix the missing divider. We have all the parts. They still lay eggs there.

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.

The gentle giant, Springsteen. You can see some green highlights on her feathers.

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.

Hedley, in the rear, is the shyest hen, and won’t let me get close. Bertie and Gertie are overly friendly.

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.

This had gotten particularly dirty, and the roost area in front was also a mess. This is way better. Golf ball is a fake egg. All the eggs in these pictures are the ones we were trying to hatch, which are now dummy eggs.

What Chickens and Cattle Have in Common

Ah, memories. Back when Lee’s dad was still around, he liked to tell us all he knew about cattle. He knew a lot, since he spent most of his time with cattle, not people.

I found this 2011 photo of one of Lee’s dad’s mama cows who nursed two bull calves, well past the usual nursing time.

One of his favorite things to tell us was that cows were very smart, and that they had definite habits. He’d tell us he always knew where his cows would be at any time of day, and what they’d be doing. He knew when to go outside and take a nap with them, when they went to get water, and when they went to the back part of the farm to graze. He was a very find observer of bovine behavior!

Well, for the past few days, since I have been sitting at my home office window, I’ve been watching the chickens. I now know that they start out hanging around under the RV in the mornings. Around midday, most of them (Springsteen the Jersey Giant hangs around the coop) head over to where our cattle troughs are and peck at the hay. They also drink out of the fish tank…I mean water trough.

At mid afternoon, they hike over to our house and visit the porch, then at least four or five of them head ALL the way out to the edge of the woods.

They spotted me, so they’re running back toward the house.

And of course, as it begins to get dark, they head back to the coop area, before turning in for the night. Just like cows, chickens have habits. I don’t know if that makes them “smart.” I don’t think it’s at all smart of them to go way over there, knowing the chicken hawk lives here, too.

An Anniversary Year

When I was looking for a photo of Lee’s dad’s cattle on an old blog, I found a picture of the first time we ever stayed overnight here at the Hermits’ Rest, which was in November, 2011.

There’s Ursula, our first RV, sitting pretty much where I could be seeing her outside my office window.

Wow, ten years of this property. No wonder we’re getting to know it so well. Guess who else I’ve known for ten years? My precious horse! Here he is as a strapping 5 year old!

Apache is pissed off that Sara is riding her previous horse, Aladdin. She traded him for Spice.

Sneaky Vlassic!

Vlassic, my black dachshund mix, is always a good source of funny stories. Since Penney showed up, we don’t get to hang around constantly, since he’s been quite happily keeping Lee’s brother company over at the RV, but still, we have our good times.

BUDDIES!!

Yesterday I was pretty happy to have time to walk to feed the horses. Since Vlassic was out running around, leaping and jumping, he got to come with me, which he usually does when Sara and her dogs aren’t there. We had a good time heading up to the barn, greeting Copper, the other dog on our property, with no problems.

Then I got a text. Sara was home and heading over. Oops. I asked her if she could leave her dogs, but she didn’t get the message. Vlassic knew just what to do, though, and ran in the tack room, waiting for me to shut the door. He learns FAST.

I’m always up to something. Fish food is tasty!

Naturally, the cattle dogs lost interest, and we were able to leave, though he yelled at me before I picked him up…he has some delicate spot that bothers him. So, back we went, enjoying the weather, etc.

When I got back to our ranch, I stopped to talk to CC, and we were just chatting away, while Bertie Lee pecked at my shoes, as usual. At one point, Lee’s brother opened the RV door and called for Vlassic to come back in. Hmm, where did he go?

We called a bit more vigorously, and he came absolutely flying out of the garage. I noticed, through the blur, that he had something in his mouth. It was round. After he disappeared in the RV, I figured it out. He had found an EGG!

No wonder he ran so fast, that sneaky boy! CC went in to look for the contraband. Vlassic was innocently installed in his bed, looking very nonchalant. But, sure enough, sitting on the dinette seat was a Bertie egg. Obviosly, she didn’t get locked in the coop long enough to teach her to lay eggs in the henhouse.

The front egg is the one we found in the garage. The other two were in the henhouse, courtesy of Star and Springsteen.

The egg had bite marks on it, so we left it for Lee’s brother to cook ASAP. Then we searched the garage for the new egg hiding spot. I was very proud to live up to my “finder” reputation, because I spotted a little brown egg under the utility sink. Oh, Bertie.

CC put stuff in the new spot, to block it off. I looked today, and she hadn’t laid an egg there yet. I’ll have to search around later today.

It’s a Chicken Palace!

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.

chicken run
At most hours of the day, this roof will give the chickens some sun protection.

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.

Ready for their drinking pleasure.

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.

chicken coop
You can see how there are two feeders, at two different heights, well away from the edges of the run.

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?

chicken swing
I know a particular rooster who will be all over this for crowing and announcing his glory. And Gertie back there will probably use it a lot, too.

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).

You can see random pieces of fun wood at left, and sorta see the branch at rear right.

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.

Here is the entire chicken palace. There are 5 nest boxes. One gets used. Dang chickens.

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.

chickens
This food is NOT enough entertainment for us. But, we like it.

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).

fertile hen eggs
There’s one egg from everyone currently laying but Bertie (so, Hedley, Star, and Buttercup). Springsteen isn’t laying, because she’s setting, and Bertie lays in the garage. I only have five hens left, sniff.

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!

Bertie Lee, a hen
“Today’s shoe had no laces, but I went after the shiny bits,” says Bertie, the nonconformist hen.

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.

And hey, have any of you thought of a Word of the Year yet?

Chickens Are Guaranteed to Make You Laugh

I wrote this last night, so adjust your mental imagery accordingly.

Sure, sometimes I get sad about losing chickens, but mostly they bring me so much joy. When I see good ole Bertie and Gertie running to see me, any hint of a foul (fowl?) mood I’m in evaporates.

Mom’s home! Maybe she has food! Or shoelaces!

They just want to be where I am. The others are a bit more independent. Today I found all of them taking dirt baths in the asparagus bed (no photos).

This shoelace is too short and doesn’t sparkle. Hmph.

Sometimes I just sit in the grass and talk to Bertie and feed her leaves. Ginger used to do that, too. and Fancy Pants. Sniff. But I still have Bertie Lee!

I’m such a good listener. But I’m annoyed you messed up my nest in the garage.

I do have to be careful with the phone/camera, though, because it’s also shiny, and thus peck-worthy.

PECK!

The other thing I’ve been most enjoying is Bruce as he looks for high objects to crow from. Here he is in the garage crowing from the workbench.

Tallest bird in the garage!

Today he wanted to be king of the welding equipment.

King of the red canister.

Buttercup was really interested in what Bruce was doing.

I’d like to be queen of the welding stuff.

Sadly, there can only be one monarch at a time.

Bruce deposed Buttercup before she even gained a foothold.

I really needed a day to just enjoy the life around me and not have a huge to-do list. It helped a lot with matters that weigh on my mind. I even escaped the dogs and took a nice long walk.

Look at those legs! There’s definitely a whole lot of nothing out here.

From my walk, I determined that Michelob Lite Extra is by far the favorite beer of litterers, followed by Bud Light and Lone Star. and Duncan Hines is the preferred cake mix to strew on the roadside (yes, 3 boxes)! It’s time to clean up again, I guess.

There are three Eastern bluebirds on the fence.

I had to end on a happier note!

I hope you have a Bertie equivalent to cheer you up. Or, you can borrow Bertie.