Bird Mysteries

This is no fun, but it’s the way it goes out in the country. This morning, I went out to check on the chicks, and Bronzer wasn’t there! What?

We’re still here

I was so surprised and sad. I looked everywhere for the chick. There was no sign of anything getting into the coop. There was no gap small enough for a chick to get out of. There was no sign of foul or fowl play. What the heck.

I’ll miss you, little buddy.

I went all over the place listening for peeps and looking for feathers. There was nothing. It’s a mystery. I’m sure there are lots of plausible scenarios for what could have happened, but I’m honestly not up for conjecture. I’m also not up for being blamed or told what I did wrong. We live on a ranch. There are predators and other dangers. It’s how it goes.

I took my bummed out self in the garage to look for eggs, and suddenly saw something glowing like a light. What in the world do we have that shines in the dirty old garage?

So shiny.

Then I figured it out. More bird sadness. It was a male Ruby-throated hummingbird. Well, damn.

So beautiful.

To be realistic, of course birds die, and they have to die somewhere. But that was a sad thing to find right after losing the chick. He was so pretty and tiny.

Wow.

I went back in the house for more meetings, armed with my pushback strategy of setting up myself and my team for success. After all eight hours of meetings it was TIME to go out and get some air, and check for eggs.

Off I went into the corner with the mop nest. As I peeked in, I realized the nest was occupied. By a pretty chicken snake. With a lump in its belly. I didn’t get scared; I just got peeved. Damn it, those are MY eggs. There was still one in there, so I used a stick to get it out. Ha.

Rather than a snake, please enjoy Engelmann daisies.

I tried to get help removing the snake, but it was gone by the time We got back. Great. I hope it didn’t also find a chick to eat. And I wish the hens would go back on top of the fridge!

Now, that’s lovely. At least something is thriving!

In summary. It was not a good chicken day today, even though they got their yummy new food in, finally. I’m getting more hens, though, because coop updates are now coming up soon! More on that later!

Sunday Musings: It’s a Good Life, All Things Considered

Today, I’m being more explicit about what I’m grateful for than my usual gratitude practice, which is more like, “Thank goodness X is in my life, or I can do Y, or Z happened.” I want to say how grateful I am to Lee for deciding to get our retirement property early, build a house on it, and start with the rural fun and learning experiment we call the Hermits’ Rest Ranch. It’s saving my butt, that’s for sure.

Every Sunday morning, I wake up, make coffee, and hang around with Lee and the dogs up in our bedroom. It’s a huge room, so it has a loveseat, chairs, a little dining table (now Lee’s desk), and coffee fixings. Usually the dogs take turns wanting to sit by me and get petted. It’s such a gentle way to ease into the day. Weekends are the best.

This morning I had Carlton for a long time, and he was not about to let me do anything with my left hand except pet his long neck while he stretched his head straight up. Then big ole Harvey wanted some time with me. I’ve mentioned before that he thinks he’s a lapdog now, and sure enough, he managed to drape himself over my entire lap. We had a nice snuggle (I originally wrote “struggle,” which may, in fact, be accurate), though that bulky dog sure is heavy.

Not pretty, but fresh!

It is nice to review your previous day up in the bedroom, so I thought back on how happy I was to find out that all the guinea eggs from yesterday were still good, and wondered what to do with them, since I’m not heading into Austin for a few weeks, I can’t get them to my coworker who’s allergic to chicken eggs, but not guinea eggs. I guess we eat them.

Here, Apache has just picked up a clod or grass and declared round pen time was over. Typical scene with Sara working with Ace and Fiona eating grass like there’s no tomorrow.

I also reminded myself how good I am at being patient in difficult situations, which yesterday’s time with Apache once again proved. Both he and Ace were antsy, like there was something going on around them that put them on alert. I never did figure out what it was, but it led to more dancing around and trying to do what HE wanted to from Apache. He just wasn’t thinking. But, we stopped, had a little chat, and eventually went on to have a nice ride. He really likes it when I talk to him calmly.

And for those of you suggesting lessons, I’m actually signed up for some with a local trainer. That’s why I got a Coggins test for Apache when the vet was here. Sara will take Ace and I will take Apache. That means we get to practice trailer loading, because it’s been a long time since we’ve gone anywhere out of town. He used to love going to Kerri April’s to learn Parelli stuff.

This is a cool brown skink that was in the hay feeder yesterday!

I roused myself from all my musings and went out to see what’s going on with the chickens and such. Every single step I took, Bertie Lee was right with me. She’s the Big Red of my main flock. That hen just likes me. When I checked the chicks, they’d knocked their little feeder over and messed up the water, so I fixed all that and gave Star more adult chicken food (the kind they don’t like, but my shipment of Grubbly feed has not arrived yet, due to high order volumes).

They are not starving, anyway, since every time I look in they are eating away at the plant growth in and around their little coop. I’m sure no bug stands a chance in there, either!

Here’s a pretty buckeye I saw yesterday.

Then I just sat around, watched the chicks preen their feathers (it appears that they are trying to get the fluff off, so their fine new feathers can grow out), and enjoying the pond, trees, and butterflies. I got to watch the little ones go up and down the ramp, and it’s clear they are way faster at it than their mom, who carefully steps down the ramp. They also jump up and down off the small tree branch I put in their area and flap their little wings when they go to land. They will be strong! I wonder how old they will be before they can fly?

Naturally, I looked up the answer on the Googles and found they start testing their wings at around a week (check), but they don’t get their flight feathers until around 5 weeks, so we have something to look forward to!

Just looking around the ranch keeps me focused and gives me perspective. My challenges are just small bumps in the road compared to all that goes on around me every day in nature. And, like my friend Vicki has been reminding me lately:

I’ve survived all those previous hard times,
so I will probably survive this one, too.

I don’t want to just survive, I want to thrive! So I’m going to keep focused on the fact that life is good, I’m surrounded by supportive friends and family, and the new events we’ll go through will make us stronger and wiser. This is what I hope for all you out there, too.

And don’t forget to visit the podcast if you need something to listen to that’s fairly uplifting and pleasant. For me, it’s a nice break between some of my more intense podcasts! And if you want to help out with my blogging fees, consider visiting the support link at the top of the page.

Chickie Birthday!

That’s right, the three chicks are a week old today! I’m actually sort of surprised they made it, since our coop isn’t fancy and I’ve just been leaving Mama Star in charge.

We like it down here!

I went out to see them as soon as I got back from Austin. They were all hanging out together as usual. They had gone through a whole container of food and most of their water, which tells me you can only stay away from these guys one day unless I get a bigger feeder. But these are easy to handle and clean, so I’ll keep using them.

When I saw this, I had to blink.

I spread some scratch on the ground for Star, then headed to the garage to clean and replenish their water holder. When I came back, I could see Star, but there was lot of movement near her. The chicks had come down! I guess they figured it out yesterday!

Bronzer, Granite, and Steel look so mature!

The chicks were eating all Star’s food and running around pecking at everything. I was happy to see them eating blades of grass with abandon. They are so confident at one week old. I’m happy.

We’re busy growing feathers.

Yep, those babies can’t help but cheer us up. Even Lee is charmed by their peeps and pops. I even catch him giving the older chickens treats. And he was asking me about my chicken food ingredients.

We’d like to get to that long grass over there. That grass is getting trimmed soon. I promise.

Speaking of the other four hens, they got annoyed by a garage light that wouldn’t shut off and quit laying on the fridge. Now they are putting all their eggs in the far corner on an old mop. It’s really painful for me to get to them, but at least all four laid in the same place. Eight eggs, no searching! Plus, Big Red gave one. Do I need more chickens? Maybe not!

By the way, for Earth Day, our local grocery store, H-E-B, gave away cool Earth Day bags. A friend in Maryland wanted one, so I went out after lunch and got one for me and her, when I knew they’d still have some.

Pretty.

While there, I got a little bouquet of flowers to reward myself for perseverance. The store flowers are reasonably priced, though not compared to the wildflowers.

I got myself flowers to cheer me up.

I hope you thought about the wonderful planet where we all live today, and the amazing animals and plants we share our home with.

Chickens Sure Are Good Mothers

More stories of chickens, coming up. I was getting concerned about keeping Star, my mama hen, literally cooped up with the chicks in such a small space. I came up with the idea of blocking off the exit from the original Tractor Supply coop into the larger chicken run, which would give them a lot more space to run around, plus room for Star to poop that isn’t in the middle of their eating area.

You can’t really tell, but Bronzer is standing ON star. Good mom!

I looked around for something easy and temporary, but couldn’t find anything that was both large enough and liftable by me. At last I spotted a fine roll of chicken wire just sitting in the garage, looking at me. It could be cut to the right size and used to cover the hole!

I recruited my spouse to help me, since I didn’t know where wire cutters were, and it’s fun to make him go outside and do things every so often. It’s a bonding activity. He measured the space and cut a piece of chicken wire, which we then managed to attach fairly securely to the entry. It will most assuredly keep the chicks IN, but I don’t know if it will keep varmints OUT.

All secure-ish.

When and if the nephew gets back, I’ll see if he has ideas for reinforcing it. Once the chicks are a month old and fully feathered, I’ll probably let them out, anyway.

The big moment arrived and I opened the door to the space. I thought the chicks would rush right over, see the opening, and dash down the ramp to see all the delicious plants and dirt.

Hmm, I can do downstairs.

Instead, Star came over, looked out the door, and went down the ramp, where she promptly took a dust bath. I knew she wanted one! Meanwhile, she kept making interesting clucks, which seemed to be aimed at the chicks any time they came near the door.

They ran around peeping, but did not exit. She went back up the ramp, and promptly blocked the exit. I realized right then that I could not keep the food and water “downstairs” like I’d hoped. She was not going to let them out!

Can we come out? NO!

I came back a few times yesterday to check, and sure enough, Star had pooped, eaten a bunch of grass that had started to grow in there since the other chickens abandoned it, and taken more dust baths, but there was no sign of chick exit. I decided to put HER food on the ground, since the chicks seem to like it a lot and I’d prefer they eat their medicated rations.

Can I come out? NO!

I do believe Star is in charge of chick activities, not me. And she is one smart Mama. It got so windy yesterday that it would probably have blown the chicks around. Plus, a late cool front came in, and it got chilly outside! The babies needed to roost under their mom, where it’s nice and warm.

Star’s mothering instincts are quite impressive to me! I’m a bit bummed that I had to go to Austin for a couple days, so I may miss their big moments of freedom. Or, when I get back they may be right where they were, enjoying their chick food and grit, and gurgling their water.

One nice thing about getting up early is sunrises!

Let’s hope things keep moving along in a positive fashion. There actually has been good news both in my little circle and in the world this week. It’s good to have a bit of balance back!

The Great Peeper Escape

Well, shoot, those baby chicks are three days old already, so naturally it’s time for them to start having adventures or getting in trouble. They were fine this morning when I went in and gave Star some scratch to enjoy. Oh, and since my sister asked, I decided I better name them, so meet (left to right) Granite, Bronzer, and Steel. I figure those names are unisex and color-coded, so I can remember them.

Hello, we like to eat. And peep.

Lee and I went on an ill-fated trip to find him a zero-gravity folding chair to sleep in when we travel, and when we got back, I headed over to the chickens to give them some mealworms I’d bought for them (as if they don’t have enough insects).

I heard a great deal of peeping long before I got to the chicken run. Obviously something was wrong! Was something in there going after my babies? Was one of them hurt?

Steel had just pecked Star’s beak. I’m sure that’s her loving look. Chickens don’t have many expressions, sort of like cats.

I peeked inside the roosting area, and there was Star and two chicks. Bronzer was not there. And the loud peeping was from outside the roost. The biggest peeper had managed to jump up on the fine Hook ‘Em sign I’d used to block their exit and gone down the ramp. Uh oh.

Right as I figured that out, Star jumped through the opening and went to comfort Bronzer. There he/she/they was, bopping around and poking at grass and such. The chick was fine, just wanted MAMA! Great, I thought, I have to move her before I can get to the baby.

Yay, eating from the feeder. Note that Steel is already getting some new wing feathers.

I gamely went into the coop, and crawled through the chicken opening, which is not a semi-large human opening. I was wearing clean jeans. Note that I say WAS wearing clean jeans, since Star had been depositing large mama hen poops all over the place. I waved at her, and she ran back up to the other two chicks.

As I waited for little Bronzer to bop close enough to me to be caught I noticed something I’d forgotten about: there was a DOOR to that roosting area, for if you wanted to shut the chickens in there at night. Aha! It’s a really cheap and non-sturdy door, as only a Tractor Supply’s least expensive chicken coop would be likely to have. But, it shuts.

Bronzer is really big. Hope that doesn’t mean future rooster.

I chatted to Bronzer for a while, as my back got all frozen up, and did I mention it was extra windy and below 60 degrees? Yep. I was worried the little one would get too cold, after reading about keeping them at 95 degrees for the first week (that is Star’s job).

But, yay, my patience paid off and I easily picked up the chick. Figuring out how to back up in a very tight space holding a peeping and wiggling bird was the next challenge. Something was catching my shirt, but I managed. Whew. I plopped Bronzer back where they were supposed to be and managed to shut that door. Safety at last!

Thanks for the bugs, says Bertie Lee. They are nummy. I’ll lay you an egg later.

Now that Star can’t get out, either, I went and got her some adult chicken food and will put more in there tomorrow. I was very glad to see Bronzer eating away and looking no worse for wear. At the rate they are growing, I should be able to let them back out in a couple of days, anyway. I’m learning that chickens are pretty tough.

Star must have mites or something. She’ll get to have a dust bath soon!

Hope your adventures have good endings today like mine have!

Hungry and Cute Chicks with Pix

As soon as I got a break from work meetings, I headed out to feed the flock and check on the new babies. I was happy to see that Star had at least moved them in the night. I was wondering if she’d ever move!

The fraternal triplets. Look how they differ in size and foot color!

It looked to me like no one had touched the food or water I’d put out, so I moved them closer to the chicks, and then sprinkled a little of the food on the surface. Once the gray chick took a peck at it, the other two joined in!

Hey! This is FOOD! Note the wary Mom head in most of my photos.

Pretty soon, Star ALSO realized there was food in there, and she started eating out of the food dish. I’m hoping that modeling will encourage the little ones to peck in the nice clean container, and maybe also figure out the water is over there.

We’re all eating now!

I feel like I helped the little dudes out a bit, and I sure got a lot of joy out of watching them eat. I assume they didn’t need to eat much the first day, but will need LOTS of food from now on!

I may be the smallest, but I ate first, chirps the gray one. I don’t have names yet.

I promise, no daily update posts, though I’ll probably sneak in some photos as they grow. I’m glad Star is a good mom so far!

I’m already hiding the gray one from you! And how dare you spend only $1.35 on our feeder!

Look Who’s Back! It’s Gracie!

Oh my gosh. Today got even better! There I was, talking to my boss, all serious-like, when Lee came in carrying something that looked like a small Carlton. Only it was GRACIE LOU! We hadn’t seen her in over a week!

Hello!

Of course, there was one place we hadn’t looked for her, and that’s where she was. She’d been in our garage storage room. One of us must have gone in there for some reason and she followed us in.

I’m still all happy and playful!

I have a sinking feeling it was me, because I vaguely remember going in there at some point. That guilt will stay with me forever, every time I look at that sweet face.

Thanks for freeing me. I need more variety in my diet.

I guess the “good” part is that we locked the right dog in there. Gracie, as I mentioned before, is a tough farm dog, despite her delicate good looks. It was obvious she had mice to eat in the storeroom and knew how to catch them. Wow.

We had to ration water when she first came back to the house, because we know too much water when you’re dehydrated isn’t great. She seems okay now, friendly and sweet as ever.

One thing we can’t figure out is why we never heard her barking. I spend a lot of time in the garage looking for eggs, after all. But, now that I think of it, I was in Austin last week! Ah! That explains it. Still, I didn’t hear her from Friday to today. It’s a mystery, I guess.

We’re here to distract you.

After all this drama, I went out to sit on the porch and stare blankly at the trees. I got to enjoy a fine show of Harvey, Penney, and Carlton chasing each other and playing. It’s like having my own circus act.

They’re doing acrobatics.

I’m so glad we found Kathleen’s sweet and tough dog. We’ve had enough losses and bad news lately!

Chicken Update

I made a mistake in my piece on waiting for the chicks to hatch! I said it took 15 days, and that’s totally wrong; it’s 21! I appreciate our supporter, Dorothy, for pointing that out and telling me how to candle eggs with a flashlight!

Mom let me peek out! Look at my cute feet!

Dorothy also tells me she’d rather have dishcloths than an afghan, which means my next supporter who gives more than a dollar a month can have an afghan! Who will it be?

Isn’t my butt cute?

I’m a Chicken Grandma!

Well, that didn’t take long! An hour after I wrote my previous entry, I went over to check on star, and reinforce her door with some heavy stones. I heard PEEPS. I couldn’t see a dang thing, though.

So, I moved her aside, and there were two little black chicks, one who obviously had just hatched. I then looked on the other side, and there was a very perky brown chick who looks a lot like Buttercup. Yay! They all hatched!

Hi, I’m the Buttercup baby.

Star let me rearrange the food and water a bit, so the little ones can get to it, and then I left her so the third baby, who I’m guessing is hers, could dry out.

I see some white bits on this one! It’s Henley’s.

I’m so happy that they all made it, but a little sad that I barely missed the hatching. I do have to work, so I couldn’t sit there all day and annoy Star. I’m also proud that I got that chick food in there just in time, too!

I can’t tell, but I bet the new one is gray.

I was curious as to what the little fresh one would look like when dried off, so I went back, and sure enough, that’s a gray one, just like Star.

I look like my mom!

I let Bruce know he was a dad, but, as a rooster, he had no idea what I was talking about. He did strut a bit, nonetheless. He’ll figure out why soon enough, once his kids come downstairs. I’m also sharing photos of the mothers, just so you’ll see what they might look like later (depending of how much of Bruce’s good looks come through).

For now, everyone is nestled under Star, recovering from the arduous hatching they had to do. When they come out, there’s food and drink waiting for them, so hooray!

They can just hop over and get food, whenever their mom lets them.

Baby Watch (Chick)

First, I want to thank everyone, especially blog reader Julia, for your helpful comments on yesterday’s essay on not being responsible for the happiness of another person. I hope it’s clear that I will always be available to support and help people I care about; I just don’t have a functioning magic wand to turn that frown upside down.

I’m still brooding over here. Get out of my face, says the fluffy Star.

I read that eggs take 21 days to hatch, so today may be the day Star’s three eggs hatch. I haven’t “candled” them (no tools) to see if there’s a developing baby in there, so I have no idea if any of the eggs are actually viable. If they all hatch, we will have mothers who produce white, tan, and brown eggs, all fathered by Bruce, who carries the gene for blue eggs.

My feathers are all ruffled at the thought of being a daddy, declares Bruce.

If any chicks turn out to be hens (oh please!) they should lay olive eggs. Won’t that be fun?

Yesterday I brilliantly realized I hadn’t gotten chick feed. Oops. I got the medicated kind, because I can’t give a chicken a shot, even though I got a demo once. While I was at the local farm store/boutique/dry cleaners, I got a small feeder and waterer that will fit in the nest box area.

I got all worried last night that newborn chicks would fall out of the nesting area. So, I put a rectangular, wood sign up across the entrance that should block the chicks but let Star climb over and get out to eat adult chicken food.

I have to keep up my strength for protecting these chicks, if they hatch, says Star.

I hope to get some help with a better system soon, but I did my best! Now I just have to stay patient. I drank a lot of liquid patience (that’s what my new coffee mug from the Bling Box says) this morning, to reinforce it.

Obviously, I’ve been using this mug as hard as I can!

I’m really glad there are these positive and interesting things going on at the ranch right now, because my anxiety levels are absolutely through the roof. I just keep going outside, looking at the life all around me, and breathing. I’m trying to work on the things I can affect and let the things that are out of my range of influence just drop. That’s what Lee said a Stoic would do.

The distraction today was how many different pollinators were buzzing around the false dandelions over by the chicken run. I saw at least four different kinds, ranging from tiny hoverflies to a long-horned bee about the size of a honeybee.

It’s a big bee.

We have also had very, very large ground bees or something like that flying around. They are different from bumblebees in that they hover and dart around very fast. On iNaturalist, they identified one of my photos as a bumblebee and one as a carpenter bee, but judging from the behavior, I think it’s the latter.

I do know what my last photo is, because I managed to look it up. It’s Carolina bristlemallow with seeds. They look so interesting, don’t they?

I’m sincerely hoping you have something interesting and maybe even fun to distract you from whatever challenges you’re facing today. We’re all in it together, and I’m busy trying to make my own happiness over here. Sure I am.