Nature Endures and Brings Surprises

Happy Friday to all! I’m especially happy, because I slept like a rock last night and am taking the day off to just do whatever I want to do, as long as it isn’t in a crowd of people!

What I wanted to do this morning was go check out the flooding. It rained a good deal again last night, and the creek spilled its banks, the fields are all full of puddles, and happy egrets and herons are everywhere. I’m happy to report that since the little pond filled back up, there is at least one bullfrog remaining (heard it last night, saw it splashing into the pond this morning).

Still not finished, but it’s full again. Note willow tree already trying to grow on the banks.

It was good to see the front pond all full. The dogs will be able to swim in there now, since Chris mowed all the plants from around it. And the water is happily flowing through the arroyo and down to the stream. That always makes me happy.

Our gate had stopped working this morning, probably just ran out of juice from not getting much sun for a couple of days. I got it to open and made it stay open so our caregiver can get to Jim in the RV. Then I decided to take a walk, since there were no dogs outside and it was safe to go down the road. I was interested to see what was still alive and thriving after over a month with just a trace of rain. Here are some!

I continued walking, and enjoyed seeing all sorts of rain-laden clouds, and wet vultures drying their wings, chatting, or whatever they do on the fence.

The most exciting thing I saw was this:

Eggs!

Since they had obviously come out of a mound in the dirt, I figure these are turtle eggs that had recently hatched, perhaps prompted by the rain and lower temperatures. They are rubbery and soft, not like chicken or other bird eggs. I actually saw two nests with eggshells, and once I realized they are there, a few more nests that are still “cooking” (which I did not disturb).

Turtles like to lay nests on the sides of roads, because they tend to have loose and sandy soil for easy digging. I hope these little guys made it and are off swimming away to wherever the floods take them!

Speaking of the flooding, I got a couple of photos of the creek. The new fence technique the Vrazels used across the creek seems to have held up, and it appears no new giant logs came through. This is a fairly normal amount of flooding for our little creek bottom, so it mostly made me happy to know the weather cycle is normal this year.

I came back to check on the chickens, who all appear to have made it. They made four eggs yesterday, so the rain didn’t bother them too much. But, wow, the wet chicken area is stinky. I’ve got to get to work figuring out better ways to keep their food dry, too, especially the ones who aren’t free range (they all ran out yesterday while I was trying to cover the cage in the run where the new ones are, but in the end, they all ended up in the right place (though a couple of pullets lost their virginity, thanks to Bruce).

A symphony in gray, or hello from Gertie.

All in all, I think today is a good reward after working hard all week (and succeeding!). I’m glad I wasn’t too tired to go feed horses and check on them, too, because last night I had a good chat with the Ralph and the Vrazels, who were getting ready to harvest a couple of steers. It’s good to catch up on what’s going on, and being outdoors makes it a lot easier.

Chicken Surprise (not a recipe)

I think my high school cafeteria used to serve “tuna surprise,” and I want to assure you that I’m not eating my chickens. But I did get a nice surprise this morning!

I went out to let the chickens and guinea fowl out this morning before work, and was chatting with Fancy Pants, Bertie, and Gertie as usual, when I heard the sounds of some rooster-on-hen action going on. I turned my head to see Clarence working away on a black-and-white hen. Since I have three of those, I couldn’t tell who it was until the act was finished.

hen
There’s a reason I’m running, and it’s not to get a grasshopper.

Lo and behold, it was Hedley, the former Hedy, who I’d renamed because I thought they were a rooster. Well, I guess not, since neither of the other roosters has shown an interest in each other, which rules out rooster love. This is a real relief for me, since my hen to rooster ratio is already a bit off (need more hens). AND we have discovered that Gray Gertie is a guinea cock, not a guinea hen (based on his calls, and now his unfortunate hen-chasing behavior).

Gertie is a growing boy, so now poor Hedly has to run from both him and Clarence (and Bruce, who was lollygagging in the henhouse when I took this).

Now I know who’s laying the white eggs, too, since Hedley is way bigger than Henley, the other Ancona hen, who has a pink comb (for those of you keeping notes). It’s always something with these guys. At least all is well in the world of Big Red, the hen who is a member of the horse herd.

rooster
I’m a horse. A shiny red horse.

I got this photo of her yesterday, running over to the water bucket when she realized it was her favorite time of day: when the water is fresh and full for her easy access. That is one pampered solo hen, with her special feed bag of treats and water bucket.

I hear running water!

Pampered Chickens? Nah. (Book Report)

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.

Hedy and Hedley are on the new perch.

And Chris made a new shelf and perch for the guineas. They have really grown since we got them!

The perch in front and the shelf in back. They still haven’t figured them out.

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.

We only got to have our shelf because Chris added chicken wire to the top of our cage so we can’t get out.

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.

We love our new perch, say Hedy and Henley.

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.

More Flock Plus a Cock

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.

Precious guinea Keats

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.

Bird and Bee Farm Wildscape

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.

More Wildscape with cosmos in back

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.

There are ten keats in here, actually in half the box.

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!

Hedy, Hedley, and Spring or Steen

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.

Pretty Patti

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.

Bruce. He should be quite flashy as he matures.

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.

All six blackish chickens in a confused clump.

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.

The gay pride frame helps.

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.

Before the chicken wire. They could escape!

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.

No escape now. They are napping anyway.

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.

Excuse us, interlopers, but you are in our space! Bertie Lee and Ginger are not amused.

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.

Penney inspects the pointy end of the new chicken run area.

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.

Tin roof (needs work) in the new section, and more tin in the old part, making it lots shadier.

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.

This is the life!

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.

Their beloved transport box and a roosting perch are at right. They also have a branch to roost on, outside the photo.

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.