Coop Cleanup

The Raising Chickens for Dummies book told me that coops of free-range chickens need to be cleaned out every six months to a year, and since I couldn’t remember the last time anyone cleaned it, I decided now is the time.

Much less glass is in among those rocks now.

Besides, the massacre appears to be over, egg production up, and I was thinking about enlarging the flock.

My original plan was to replace all the nest box material, but we couldn’t get any straw yesterday. So, instead I cleaned off all the roosting areas and obviously soiled bedding.

Mandi and I are probably the only people who think this is a beautiful sight. Nice smooth dirt.

Then I spent an hour raking up sticks and shards of glass in the chicken run. Y’all, there is a serious glass issue in there. Also pieces of crockery. Sara says that they’d gotten rid of all of it when they lived in the cabin next to the chickens. I’m pretty sure the next renters did, too.

A sample of the variety of debris I picked up.

As it rains and the chickens peck, more glass comes to the surface. The chickens don’t eat it, but it looks bad.

As I raked and stuffed the mess into two huge feed bags, I pondered why people of the past would just throw bottles out like that.

This is how you know I’m not from around here. It suddenly dawned on me that Elaine Laywell, who used to own this ranch when it was much bigger, told me they’d used the cabin as a hunting cabin.

Well, heck! The hunters probably sat around and lined up bottles and crocks for target practice! There’s probably hundreds more shattered bottles in there.

Thank you for your efforts! Now where’s my new cousin?

So, we’re setting a bucket outside the chicken yard, and all of us chicken caregivers will pick up a few pieces every day.

We got bedding in Rockdale today, so we will replace the old stuff tomorrow. Egg-ward and upward!

Next: New chickens!

Chickens and Dogs, Oh My

First of all, I’d like to sincerely thank all of you who have said such kind and supportive things to Mandi after yesterday’s post about Sweetie. I know she feels the love from all of you. And I mean ALL of you. Her post and the one about Brody getting hurt are the two most-read posts since I started this blog. Close behind came dead chickens. Hmm. I sense a theme.

I feel lots better when sitting on Daddy. Harvey is being good, though.

So, here you go, something on both injured dogs AND dead chickens. Something for everybody, huh?

I guess you can tell from my tone that this isn’t all that horrible. Like Mandi said yesterday, when you live out in the country, you see life and death every day. I think it gets you a better perspective; we all are going to go sometime, for some reason, so let’s appreciate what we have now. Platitudes, maybe, but true.

Chickens can be funny

We did have another chicken loss this week. It was really hot, then really cold, and I guess if a chicken had to die of natural causes, the cold time is probably better. Poor little Ameracauna was just sitting on her nest. Sara thinks she was eggbound or had some other issue. At least nothing ate her, and it was peaceful. Poor dear.

For only having nine hens now, we are still getting lots of colors. And the pinkish one in the middle is HUGE.

I mentioned that the egg production had ramped up, but it had settled to four a day, which isn’t many for the number of chickens we had. As we were dealing with the dead chicken, Tyler, who lives in the cabin by the coop, came out. I said feel free to take a few eggs now, since we have enough for at least our community. He said, “Oh, I’ve been finding them in a weird place lately…oh my gosh!” He had turned to the shelves outside his door and found SEVEN eggs from a brown hen on the top shelf. Someone found a nice, warm roost. So, yesterday, everybody got some eggs!

Continue reading “Chickens and Dogs, Oh My”

Egg Production UP!

Hooray! I can’t wait until tomorrow to share this! The winter slump is over, and the ten or eleven remaining hens are starting to lay again. Mandi and Seth (the weekday gatherers) report that every day this week there are more.

Buckbeak is very proud of his remaining ladies.

Today’s 7 is pretty darned good! The owl deterrent measures seem to have helped, and we think it went to other hunting grounds.

We’re the big mamas. Ready to make you some eggs! Thanks for feeding us all winter!

Now maybe we can get a few more. We’re still going to do more coop work. But I’m so glad they’re out of the winter doldrums.

Chicken Update?

Feed us!

Just wanted to share that the owl seems to have literally flown the coop, and we haven’t lost a chicken in a couple of weeks.

As you can see, they are looking happy. Buckbeak is glowing! We have at least ten left.

  • And we are now getting ONE egg per day! 100% improvement over zero! Let’s hope things keep picking up from here. I’m still looking into coops, but it’s sorta complicated.
  • Other bird news

    I saw a cool bird sight on my way back from feeding the chickens yesterday. I stopped to punch in the gate code and heard a lot of commotion. Much screeching and cawing. I saw half a dozen of our large crows yelling at a hawk, who was yelling back.

    It looked like the hawk had robbed the crows of something. The crows took turns pecking until one of them got the hawk away from crow territory. That crow kept circling back and making it very clear that Crows Rule!

    Late-breaking news

    Look at this Austin sunset! We’re having a bumper crop this year!

    Not So Cheerful News

    RIP Big Red. You were a good guy.

    When I went to feed the chickens yesterday, for the first time since I got back from vacation, I was sad to see that one of the latest victims to our resident owl was Big Red, the rooster with the red eyes. He just loved sunflower seeds, and Mandi said she realized he was gone when no one came to the stable for their treats.

    I’m really sad about the chicken situation, though we did get the first egg in many weeks yesterday. The only way to keep the owl out would be to cover the chicken yard, but it’s not my chicken yard, and the person who built it is not interested in adding netting. Plus, my house is too far away to keep an eye out on the poor things.

    Here’s Buckbeak and the hens back when we actually had white ones.

    That leaves me and Mandi with the not-so-fun task of coming in every few days to find we are down another chicken. I feel like it’s sort of cruel to subject them to nightly terror like that. I am also not thrilled with having to dispose of them, even though I am trying to be the “tough ranch person.”

    Before you ask, the chickens are much too old to eat, not that I want to eat them; that’s why they are now MY chickens. My former co-owner wanted to make them into sausage, and I didn’t. Who knows, maybe he had the better idea after all.

    So, if you would like a nice chicken, I have a variety to choose from. We still have a few Americaunas, some red ones, some black ones, and two black-and white ones. And Buckbeak, the older rooster, is still with us.

    I don’t have any chicken transportation devices, but I’d give you food and stuff if you want to get them. I am sure they will start laying again soon, now that the days are getting longer and if they aren’t so worried about owls. I really like these guys, as you can see in my first chicken post.

    It’s illegal to kill an owl, you know. I learned that in Master Naturalist Class! I’d just prefer not to provide them with so much food. There are plenty of free doves out there.

    Future Plans

    Both Mandi and I want chickens, so I hope to be able to get a secure chicken house with a large covered run closer to my house. Alfred might be able to help guard them, and it would be easy for me to lock them inside at night. Mandi hopes to put a chicken house on her property, too. I hope this is soon. I miss sharing eggs with my coworkers.

    Those Sneaky Snakes

    Why, yes, I do have more to say about snakes. Thanks for all the great comments on the previous snake post! I guess all the dry weather had them all wandering around the ranch or something. (Aside: it has been raining this week, which we truly needed, but we could use more.)

    snake-1332381_960_720
    This public domain photo shows the cotton mouth and thick body of a water moccasin.

    Another venomous encounter

    Ralph at Wild Type Ranch reported a water moccasin (Agkistrodon piscivorous, also known as a cottonmouth) in his driveway last week. I’ve never seen one when it wasn’t swimming, so that was a big surprise to me. His dog tripped over it, so it wasn’t in attack mode. That’s good, because they are poisonous!

    Another fact about these guys is that there is a non-poisonous water snake that just swims around, happily convincing people that it might just be a cottonmouth. That is usually what we see in our ponds. They get big, and are fun to watch while they undulate around looking for fish to eat (given the water moccasin’s Latin name, one can infer they mostly eat fish, too).

    How do you tell them apart? Well, read this really good article, which I’ll summarize by saying that cottonmouths have a pit viper shaped blocky head, and thick bodies, while water snakes have thin bodies and a head that just flows into the body. Basically, leave them ALL alone. They’re really cool when viewed through binoculars.

    Continue reading “Those Sneaky Snakes”

    Fun with Fowl

    chicken1
    I’m the queen of the chickens, says this Ameraucana hen!

    I’ve recently been put in charge of chicken feeding on the weekends, so I’m spending more time than I used to around our flock. They are a very happy bunch, and I got a request for more information on them, so I thought I’d share some of their antics and such.

    History of the flock

    When I first came to the ranch, our Wild Type neighbors had just a few chickens, who lived in an interesting coop made by Ralph the neighbor. The coop is next to the old cabin, so the residents of the cabin “get” to listen to chickens all day.

    Later, the neighbors bought a dozen chicks and raised them. I can’t remember what breed they were, but I think they all produced brown eggs. But, disaster stuck.  All the chickens but a couple disappeared one day! We still don’t know if it was some bad animal or bad people.

    chicken2
    Front and center is Buckbeak, the senior rooster of the bunch.

    After a while, we got a dozen Brown Sex Links from Ideal Poultry, which is actually a local Cameron, Texas business. These chickens have a weird name, but are pretty, lay brown eggs, and are friendly. The hens are dark red and the roostes are white, which you can see on Buckbeak, above. They also bought some black meat. Originally they had planned to share them with a friend, but we ended up with all of them. So, we had a lot of chickens.

    It turned out that the “all female” chickens turned out to have a lot of roosters in them, so we kept all the hens. The black ones laid fine eggs, just not as strong as the red ones. All the future roosters other than Buckbeak became dinner. Our chicken keepers at the time, Cathy and Kayla, liked to name the chickens, so we inherited some names!

    Continue reading “Fun with Fowl”

    Why, Yes, It IS Hot

    hot1
    The weather app says it’s hot.

    After a period of vaguely okay weather, with some rainy days and nice things like that, it is now extra-July here in the middle of Texas.

    Combine that heat with all that Saharan dust, and people are staying indoors in droves. In fact, if I had a Gratitude Journal, my only entry this week would say, “Air Conditioning!” I’ve been dealing with most annoying asthma symptoms all week.

    hot2
    Be careful out there.

    Mandi was trying to paint the inside of the house she’s remodeling this week, but it doesn’t have air conditioning yet. She now has heat exhaustion.

    I’m being careful and plan to feed horses and chickens at sunset, and will probably drive over there rather than walk.

    Continue reading “Why, Yes, It IS Hot”

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