New Chicks Are Laying, I Hope in the Right Place

There’s good chicken news all around. First, Star’s three days of solitary confinement seem to have worked, and she is now running around and acting like a normal hen again. That’s just in time, because this morning I found a new egg, on the ground, over by where the new hens hang out.

Big for a first egg

It’s a different shade of brown from any of the others, so I know it’s a new one. Plus, it’s really not much smaller than the eggs the older hens lay, so good job, whichever one of you laid that! However, the middle of the ground is not a great place to lay. I thought I’d better get some fake eggs to put in the boxes, since I keep taking up every egg I find (to thwart the snakes).

So, off I went to the local feed store. Of course, they didn’t have any, so I sat in my car and pondered other places where I could get some fake eggs. It dawned on me that I have some about ten feet from where I am sitting at my desk right now.

Yes, the bird themed bathroom has fake eggs in it (and non-bird items).

That was quite a duh moment, when I realized I hadn’t had to make that trip into town (though it was good to get gas). I went home and gathered up the fake eggs, as well as some sturdy cardboard boxes. The reason I did that is that the new chickens still seem more comfortable over in the west end of the chicken run, where they were when they first got here. So, I made a few nest boxes and stuck them in various potentially enticing spots. Since it probably won’t rain again for quite a while, cardboard will be fine, and when I figure out where they like to lay, I can get a wooden one made, or buy one.

Blondie is already checking one box out, and Betsy had been looking until I bothered her.

I also took some of the endless supply of grass clippings and fluffed up our other nest boxes, to try to get them interested in laying where the other hens do. I’ve seen them going in there and looking around, so maybe someone else is going to start laying soon!

Enticement

And if my fake yellow eggs disappear then, more’s the better. I’d like to see a snake digest one of them!

We’ll see, as Lee’s dad always said.

Broody Hen, Moody Horses

What better thing to do on a full moon than to try new things? Right. I did it anyway. Good ole Star went broody again, and with something taking the eggs every night, it was fruitless to let her set on them. What to do?

Do something about that hen!

She was also hogging the preferred egg-laying spot, which made me worry about the new chickens when they go to finally start laying. Hmm.

Enjoy a passion vine in bloom while imagining me trying to figure out what to do.

Finally, reading the backyard chickens for newbies group paid off. Someone shared that if you put a broody hen in a dog cage with airflow under it, they would feel the cool air under them and go back to normal. It’s called a broody breaker. Why, there’s one of those in our coop. So…

What are you in jail for?

I thought I’d need help, so I gathered Lee and Kathleen around. But all I needed was someone to open the door for me. I just picked her up and set her in there, with food and water. She is not happy. I hope this works!

It’s cute how all the other chickens keep checking on her. Bruce is especially concerned. He’s such a good rooster.

Moody Horses

I’m not having a lot of horse luck. I’m beginning to think it’s user error, and maybe I should not be riding until I get my lessons going. After not having much luck with Apache the previous day, I figured he’s not feeling well, so I just walked him (and Fiona) around.

Yet another picture of Apache eating.

He had just gotten out of his pen, so he really wanted to eat. That was frustrating, but we had fun anyway. Fiona followed us, and really seemed to enjoy exploring her new territory.

Hey, wait for me! (She’s that fit in the horizon)

Both of them liked the change of scenery, and I enjoyed the restful interlude.

This poison ivy looks fascinating.

I then tried to ride Andrew. I managed to eventually get the saddle and bridle adjusted for him. And he did okay in the round pen, but will now only go one direction. Anyway, I mounted, and he acted all barn sour and was hard to get to move out. Eventually he followed Dusty some, but I had to hood on through some spooking, and he crowded poor Kathleen and Dusty. In the end, Kathleen walked us around until neither he nor Dusty would do anything but investigate a feed dish. I’ll try another day. Who knows where the issue lies? I need help, but will get it soon.

I’m so glad Jim mowed. There’s hay everywhere. All I want to do is eat and gain weight and go lame. I’m a load of fun.

I just want a horse I can go riding on and learn new skills. I can’t do any of the exercises in the working equitation book, because I don’t have a clue what driving through the hindquarters means, and no horse of mine can side pass. I need patience! It’s not a race and is supposed to be fun. Maybe I’m the moody ones here.

The Latest Case of Missing Eggs: Solved

I may have mentioned that the family reported no eggs the entire time I was in Austin last week. I found a few over the weekend, but not the usual amount.

Don’t blame me; I’m not laying yet.

In case the fact that Star had gone broody was making laying hard on the other hens, I set up two cardboard boxes with bedding in them, to make more compartments in the old roosting area. No one used them, far as I could tell.

High-quality nesting boxes

Then on Saturday, when I went to check for additional eggs under Star, I realized that the eggs I’d marked with a star were no longer there. Three different eggs were there. THAT is when I decided eggs were being laid, but consumed. Grr.

I can’t make the grass around the coop die and the big mower can’t reach it. I thought putting the food container in that space would be useful, but…ants came.

I knew it had to be a snake, because nothing else, other than a human, can get in. Then I was worried for Star, since she is setting so dedicatedly on her nest! I must have checked for a snake a dozen times this weekend, and other people were checking, too.

These blurry but happy chickens are eating all the food I had to throw out due to ants. They also eat ants.

So, today, when I FINALLY had a chance to move my butt off my office chair, I went to check the chickens. There were two eggs under Star. Good. Then, I went back, because I was thinking that perhaps if I set the new nesting boxes I put in sideways, the hens might like them better. I moved the one on the left, and heard the weirdest sound. I carefully peeked in the other box, and there, under the chicken bedding, was a very content rat snake. I KNEW it had to be lying around somewhere nearby, and it was just hiding! I’d probably missed it earlier.

The culprit

I asked the nephew to please eliminate the snake, which he did quite efficiently. As always, I hate doing this, but I know it would come right back if I just moved it off to the woods (previous experience). Besides, I am pretty confident we have a LOT of rat snakes here, so I’m not leading to their extinction. Ranch life is hard. To cheer you up, though, here’s one of our herons in the tank behind the house.

If you put goldfish in the troughs, expect a visit from me, the fish killer.

And…it’s raining again. I’d hoped to go visit Aragorn the beautiful dream horse at Sara’s later today, so I hope there’s a break!

Always Something with Chickens

I knew it had been too long since we had any chicken drama. They certainly know how to get themselves in trouble, even with all these dogs guarding them. They can’t help it; they are chickens.

On Saturday, I noticed that Barbara, the dark black new hen that should lay very dark eggs, was sitting a lot. Now, lots of the chickens were sitting, because it was hot. But she was sitting a lot. On Sunday, I noticed she was dragging one of her legs. Oh no, she had hurt herself in all that rain and slop. And I quickly realized the other chickens were pecking away at her and pulling out her feathers. The only good thing about that is they weren’t pecking Billie Idyl (who is fine now).

Speaking of rain, you can see how high the water got on Monday

So, I took the advice I was given and let the other new hens into the big pen a week earlier than I had planned to. That led to a lot of squawking and chasing. Eventually, everyone has come to terms with the bigger flock, though each sub-flock sticks to itself, like rival street gangs or something. If a bug shows up, though, they all go for it.

Old chickens in front, new ones in back.

After a day of rest, Barbara seemed happier and was eating and drinking, but her leg kept folding under. So, when Kathleen, etc., came back yesterday, we decided to pull a Dr. Pol. That means we have been watching a LOT of veterinarian shows on television. The three of us got together and got a splint on Barbara. My job was holding her. She was good.

Barbara in her first splint

The splint was some flexible wire, with bandages under it to cushion her leg, and wrap around it. The first one had a bent leg, as shown above. She had a hard time with it. I realized that is not how they usually hold their legs. So, we redid it more straight.

That’s better.

This makes it easier for her to lay down and rest, and she can hobble around to get to her food and water. She seems okay for now.

We’re okay, too. Thanks for asking.

My hope is that Barbara heals up and can get around soon. This morning she had obviously moved around a lot, and was standing. Good signs. I know she stands a better chance without all the pecking and trying to flee pecking. And these new ones made it 6 weeks before any accident, so not too bad.

Call me Stumpy

By the way, it’s time for all the swallows to fledge, just like the purple martins at my friend Donna’s house. We have dozens and dozens of them flying around right now, including ones who have nests around our house. This morning, I looked out the window by our stairs, and saw at least ten of them sitting on the roof.

A few of the barn swallows, seen through the screen.

Upon closer inspection, I saw it was two families, four parents and their chicks, who had just fledged. Some of those babies were figuring out how to stand on solid surfaces. It was so cute, and really made me feel better as I set out to face yet another difficult day at work.

Book Report: Brood

It’s rained nearly all day again today. The younger folks saw it was going to rain yesterday and took off for the beach, leaving us hermits to fend for ourselves. Lee was handed a bunch of paperwork before Kathleen left, so he had a project. All my original plans for the weekend were outdoor ones, so I had to regroup. Knit? No, my project is too fuzzy and hot. I decided to read. so, here’s another book report.

A few days ago, one of my old LLL friends shared Brood, by Jackie Polzin, and said the description reminded her of me. I looked at it, saw it was about a woman and her small flock of chickens, and ordered it.

Brood is Polzin’s first novel. Her style is spare and graceful. She tells us just enough to feel moved by her experiences but not so much that you can’t picture yourself in her shoes.

As someone who randomly got chickens and found their habits fascinating and their propensity to die at the drop of a hat pretty confusing, I emphasized a lot with the experiences of the unnamed protagonist of Brood. And her life, while not like mine, mirrored many of my experiences in a broad way. She seems to just float through life, following others, while getting her joy from her ability to control the quality of her avocation (for her, it was cleaning and for me it was knitting).

Anyway, this book packs a subtle but sizable wallop. I got out of it that paying attention to the now is how to lead an authentic and satisfying life. I find that Polzin does a very credible job of demonstrating the centeredness that can come from feeling okay with the transience of everything you care about.

You know, just writing about this little gem of a story made me realize that Brood has helped me see the good in some of my quirks and the validity of some of my awkwardly existentialist/Buddhist leanings.

I feel like reading this every few months, even though I know the plot. The plot is the least important part of Brood for me. I had no idea this novel about a lady in Minnesota and her four chickens would move me. It did!

Don’t Let the Chickens Out

It was a fun, relaxing day, except that I did a thing I probably shouldn’t have. The chickens were trying so hard to get grasshoppers from within their pen. I was throwing them in, but felt sorry for them, so I let them out.

Whoa! We’re free!

I watched them for at least ten minutes as they flapped and ran around after grasshoppers and crickets. They’d fight each other for them and squawk away.

Bugs everywhere!

I went off to take care of the horses, and when I came back they were scattered all over. So, I went in for a while. I went back out with half a watermelon shell. The minute I walked by, four of them came running, led by Bertie Lee, of course.

But the other two? Nope. I couldn’t find them. So I came back a few minutes later, and Star and Henley, the skittish one, were behind the coop. I couldn’t get them in. Well, I got Star in, but Buttercup went out. So, I had to get Lee to help. There are no photos, because we were too busy!

That dang Henley ran out in the field, ran around us, and got stuck trying to get in the wrong way. But, we did it! More teamwork! However, they stay in for a while longer, I think!

What’s this?

Earlier today, we rewarded ourselves for hauling all the hay by taking a spontaneous trip to Temple for lunch. We ended up downtown and Kathleen looked for a restaurant. We headed to a place with pizza, and ended up in a really pretty area that appears recently renovated.

Area near the restaurant

We had a great time at Treno’s, even with the weird trendy ordering system. The outdoor eating area was so pretty, and the oven-fired pizza was fantastic.

Pretty eating area. There were also really cute play areas.

We were delighted with our meals, and we want to go back and try their beer bar. I’m impressed with the work they’ve done there, and it was good to see families having fun.

More downtown Temple.

One funny thing is that I wore an old t-shirt today that says, “I apologize to anyone I’ve not offended yet. I will get to you eventually.” I had three different people come up and say how much they liked it. One guy took my picture. That was weird!

In all, it was a good Sunday. I worked, had fun, and ate good food. We’re going to try another Temple restaurant soon!

Actually Back in the Saddle (Me)

Well, I’m back where I was a few months ago, but with a healthy horse to ride. Sara isn’t here for a few days, but I wanted Apache to keep getting the exercise he’d been getting lately, so he will have more muscle and less fat.

I have no pictures of me riding, so here is a picture of the big dogs swimming.

So, this evening I went out to release Apache from the dry pen and took his beautiful groomed self out in the round pen for a lot of trotting. That’s also good for his muscle building.

Yep. That fencing is moving right along.

Then, well, I got on, even though I hadn’t done so since the winter, when we had our last scary ride. Luckily, this ride went pretty well. He did his thing where he tried to turn around, but not too many times. After that, it was a nice ride.

We have the pretty yellow flowers of the water primrose again around the pond.

Apache and I even walked by the two younger cattle dogs and a bunny with no issues. It’s so good to have him feeling good and focusing on what we are doing. Maybe I do have a future learning more with him.

Hey. We’re still here.

Also, for your information, Fiona is also being a superstar. I no longer have to go get her and halter her when we’re done riding or exercising. I call her, and she meanders my way. I stick my hand out with a treat in it, and she happily follows me. My stress levels are so low now with these guys.

And that’s really how I’m back in the saddle again. Just having fun with my animal buddies.

Lazy Day, with Lego

Today I ended up not doing much after riding Apache in the morning. Partly that’s because I got a shingles vaccine yesterday, and I was tired (fell asleep for a while after lunch).

My Lego creation.

And then my evening activities with Kathleen and some Hearts Homes and Hands staff got canceled because one of the buildings on the ghost tour was on fire. Oops. So, I decided to break out the Lego kits I recently ordered.

I love all the people and their hair

I’d ordered to colorful one when someone at work shared it for Pride week. It is so cheerful! A lot of us got it and have been building them. I may put mine in my office, but I may like it too much to leave it in Austin.

Lego perpetual calendar.

The other thing I made is this cute perpetual calendar. It was on sale, but put my order high enough to get free shipping. So, it was free. I’m glad, because it was missing a red calendar face and had an extra gray one. So the color scheme is wonky, but it still works. Plus, the business dude in the middle makes me smile.

Obviously, the dogs also rested.

Goldie, who’s been here a week today, has not stopped swimming since she got here. Today she was in the deepest part of the little pond and completely submerged other than her head! It was great fun until a bullfrog jumped in and startled her!

She’s just a head.

One other lazy highlight of the day was feeding the chickens some leftover cucumber and apple. I sure love the smell of cucumber, even when it’s past its prime.

This stuff is good.

Since I’d tried apples with the new chickens when they first arrived, and they didn’t touch them, I hadn’t been giving them fruit and veg since. But, today I decided to give it a try again.

Hey, Babette, this cucumber is tasty! Yes, Betsy, the apple is also delicious.

I guess being in the pen with grass and bugs has taught them to try new foods. Next time I’ll give them more, and maybe some watermelon! I’m delighted at how well these new girls are adapting and thriving.

Now to relax some more. I’m out of Lego projects! I hope to be less puny tomorrow. If not, I’ll have more ibuprofen.

How Are the New Dog and Chickens Doing?

I have already been asked this today, so I may as well write a quick update for you. I’m happy to report it’s all good news!

Goldie is very happy and eating a lot, which she needs to do. She is also sleeping much better since her mommy Kathleen went out and got her a new and gigantic crate to sleep in. Ah, how I have missed having crate trained dogs. I’m told she slept like a log last night. She also got a fine and festive new collar!

This morning on my chicken-feeding break, I looked over to the horse fencing construction area and saw Goldie and Carlton, happily in the shade, supervising the drilling of more holes.

We like the shade.

Goldie went out to inspect the auger when it stopped moving for a bit, but she got the heck out of there once it went back to scattering dirt everywhere.

Yikes!

It’s nice to see at least some of the dogs getting along together. Goldie is very persistent, and repeatedly asks Penney to play with her, but she gets nothing back but growls and snaps. That one may take a while. Harvey has gotten to where they have smelled butts, but he still growls at her (but less ferociously than before). Goldie and Alfred just stay out of each other’s way. Slowly but surely, everyone is adjusting.

I like it here.

As for the new pullets, they also seem to be acclimating well. They have their roosting spots and their resting spots, and are going through chick food like crazy. The two who had seemed to be having trouble are both looking a LOT better. Blanca was up and foraging around with the others this morning.

And little Billy Idyl has no more blood on her, and seems perky and chipper. I’m glad. She is so darned cute. She runs around like a roadrunner, too. In the photo, I was TRYING to get a picture with her whole head in it!

Of course, I DO have other chickens, and I haven’t forgotten them! We got a watermelon in the house yesterday, and it all got cut up for snacking (and a fine watermelon it is, too). Of course Bruce and his ladies got to enjoy the rind this morning.

It will be fun to see how long it takes them to reduce the melon halves to nothing but the very edge of the rind like they did last time.

Since all I’d given them yesterday was a green tomato that had fallen off the vine at the cabin, I feel better in the treat department. If they are lucky they may well get to peck at some ends of zucchini and cucumber that we were given yesterday!

Ain’t life grand, if you are a dog or a chicken? Especially at the Hermits’ Rest?

Chicken Butt Medicine

All the new chickens are currently okay. Blanca, in particular, seems a bit traumatized by her new surroundings, as well as the heat. She and Babette stay in the cool shelter a lot. But, she seems better today.

Blanca is hiding.

The little hens have a lot of shade and fresh water, so they should be fine.

We are fine and curious about everything.

Billie Idyl is by far the smallest. I should probably have asked Gene to pick out the largest of the Brabanters. I noticed yesterday morning that the others had been pecking on her, as chickens naturally do (source of the term pecking order). Billie’s tail area was bloody, which worried me.

I’m better now!

I wondered if I should separate her in the original chicken house, like I did the chicks. But, clearly that wouldn’t fix the problem. Maybe a deterrent would be better.

Barbara, at right doing major wing flappage, was the main pecker. She must be the Queen of this flock.

So, the nephew looked up what could stop hens from pecking and found a recipe or two. We combined two of them and mixed this:

  • Honey
  • Lemon essential oil
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Small amount of Dawn detergent (in lieu of blue food coloring, which we didn’t have)

We think the blue was so you could tell where you applied it. But Dawn might help clean the wounds. We put it all in a cool old oil dispenser he’d found in an antique shop.

Oil sprayer. Label says chicken butt medicine. Hee hee.

The resulting product was just right for spraying. Now, cornering Billie to spray her butt was no easy task, so the stuff got in a few other spots, but did hit her injured areas. We were worried it would attract ants or bees, but apparently the lemon oil repelled them. Whew.

Billie is at right. Barbara is pissed off that I made her target taste bad.

Today, there is no sign of new pecking or injury. There are no ants on her, either. Billie is running around eating, drinking, and scratching most cheerfully. Hooray for the chicken butt medicine.