Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘chicken coop

It’s Curious

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For as much of my life as is now committed to caring for our property and animals, I find it curious that I can still have a series of days with very little contact to them. Yesterday, in celebration of our anniversary, we went out to dinner in Hudson after I got home from work.

When we returned after dark, I dropped Cyndie off at the barn so she could make her way to the chicken coop to close their access door for the night. I parked the car in the garage and headed inside to start my evening routine.

Tonight, I will be meeting the family at a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis to celebrate Julian’s birthday. This will lead to another night of arriving home after dark, not even seeing either the horses or chickens.

During my work weeks, it can happen that I’m completely disconnected from the activities of our ranch for a few days. It’s a little disorienting for me.

Especially since the most orienting thing of all for me is when I am able to spend time with our animals.

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Written by johnwhays

September 20, 2017 at 6:00 am

Final Step

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It starts out as luscious green grass. The horses eat it and their bodies process it. They spread it on the ground for me to scoop up and shape into big piles. In the piles, microorganisms take action and the temperature climbs to around 160° (F). Eventually, things settle down and the pile cools.

At that point, it’s ready for use feeding growing things which puts that luscious green back where it came from at the start. The final step is loading some bags for sharing our wealth with others.

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My project yesterday was a little more involved than usual after the chickens showed up to offer assistance. Their version of helping seems to always involve getting as much in the way as they possibly can. I tried negotiating with them, but it seems as though they don’t understand English.

Compost work was interrupted by lunch, after which our attention shifted to the north pasture. With Cyndie assisting, we pulled the posts with a chain and the loader bucket of the diesel tractor, which cleared the way for me to mow the overgrown field.

Well, not exactly. The evergreen trees in that field have gotten so big, the tractor doesn’t fit between many of them anymore. It becomes a maze of weaving around groups of trees that are often too close together to provide easy weaving.

It was certainly more trouble than I could manage, in terms of getting the field to look decently mowed. I did achieve a wonderful version of the ‘bad haircut.’

The night ended with a small setback, as the chickens made their way into the tree over the compost piles again before we could entice them to the coop. It seems as though the training for that may not have a final step, but will be a repeating exercise for some time to come.

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Written by johnwhays

July 15, 2017 at 6:00 am

Highly Effective

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I’m very impressed with the effort put forth by our three surviving chickens to hunt and peck all day long in an ever-expanding range away from their coop and beloved tree perch. It has me believing a full flock of the nine we once had would have been a highly effective insect control method.

Our two Plymouth Rocks and one Buff Orpington surprised me last night by showing up out of nowhere to hang out around me while I moved some hay from the shed to the barn. They subtly tagged along toward where I moved when I cleaned up manure in the paddock, and then followed me to the compost area.

All the while they keep scratching away and gobbling everything they uncover. Nonstop machines, they are.

Luckily, they followed me down to the chicken coop when I took some measurements for modifications. It was easy to get them inside for another day of re-training to their proper night perch. I’m feeling a new inspiration to find a way to accommodate the addition of new birds.

The hay I was moving is the most recent we purchased. By all our still rather novice understandings, this batch seems to be top notch. The horses will be the ultimate judges.

We have purchased old hay from this supplier before, which the horses took to without hesitation, so we are optimistic the fresh bales should be well received.

They look good, smell good, and have the right percentage of moisture. With the addition of new doors on the shed, we can now store the bales out of the bleaching rays of constant sunlight, so were are feeling a bit more at ease over keeping our horses properly fed for the coming season.

Just in time to allow us to put attention to getting more chickens and figuring out how to manage all the details of coping with the challenges of caring for them over winter.

What could possibly go wrong there?

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Beyond Me

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For me, building our chicken coop was a stretch. I’d never tried any construction project of that magnitude before, and I was choosing to work from found materials and without a blueprint. It was a small miracle it turned out as well as it did.

Now, Cyndie is telling me we need to modify it to have a divider that will allow us to introduce unfamiliar birds to the existing flock of three. Today, a functional version of her vision is completely beyond me. I have no idea how I will secure all the nooks and crannies with chicken wire to a point where two unfamiliar flocks of birds will co-exist for a while in that one coop.

On to something I can do. Yesterday, I put the old F150 to work doing double duty. First, it was a road trip to the cities to pick up a load of unwanted used pavers from a staff member at the day-job. Drew was nice enough to offer them up for free if I would go to his place and make them disappear.

I had a plan to use them on one of the muddy spots on our trail through the woods. Before I could get to that step, I needed to reclaim a pile of rock that I had stumbled upon when creating a path to the new chicken coop last year. There was an old rusty box stove in the woods that I believe was used to boil syrup. It looked to be generations old, and the area around it had some old busted cinder blocks and a pile of landscape rocks.

Those rocks would serve nicely to fill a spot in the trail that tends to puddle, so before setting the new paver pieces in place, I wanted to transfer the rocks.

The chickens showed up to help, but were almost too eager to get after the creepy crawling creatures revealed when I scooped a shovel-full. They were more interference than they were helpers, but they sure are cute to have as company.

While the hours of the day vanished, one after the other, I hustled to get the pavers moved out of the truck. We had an appointment to pick up a load of hay around dinner time.

Hoping to minimize the handling, I wanted to transfer from the truck to the ATV trailer so I could deliver pavers directly to the path in the woods.

After a cursory two trips of distributing pavers, I had a good start on the trail, but needed to stack the rest up by the shop for use at a later time. The appointed hay hour was fast approaching.

Given this morning’s new assignment with the chicken coop, I am thoroughly enjoying the mental ease and physical feasibility of yesterday’s projects. New hay is stacked in the shed and pavers cover the muddy trail.

Next time it rains I’ll be excited to walk the enhanced surface of the trail at the bottom of the hill.

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2017 at 9:31 am

Lonely Three

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We are really missing our lost chickens. The three that remain are doing a good job of carrying on, but we get a sense that they are still feeling ill at ease over the disruption and fatalities that befell the flock a week ago Friday. On the most recent Saturday and Sunday nights, when we arrived to close the door on the coop, they weren’t all inside.

Of course, that quickly brought on fears of another predator, but we found a favored tree branch over the compost piles has become a new alternative go-to spot.

Last night we saved ourselves the extra step of plucking them from the branch at bedtime by heading down a little early and serenading them toward the coop. A sprinkled treat of cracked corn, grains, and meal worms won their favor and lured them into the safety of their shelter.

We are contemplating a few options to fill the void and get the numbers back up. If we are lucky, the killer(s) that visited was/were not local and simply took advantage of the birds while passing through. The more ominous alternative is that it was a local predator that will return as long as we keep buying more chicks.

I need to refine my trail cam setup to improve my results of capturing uninvited intruders in the act.

Oh how I like to dream of being able to use Delilah to protect the chickens from all threats. In reality, she will never master the nuance of first protecting them from herself.

It sure is a treat to watch them pecking away at the compost pile. I like to think that each hit is one less fly tomorrow. Their efficiency may not be that high, but I’m happy to just go on thinking it is.

How would we ever know the difference?

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Written by johnwhays

June 27, 2017 at 6:00 am

Chicken Catching

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We are getting close to opening up the netting and giving our chicks a chance to do some exploring. They are currently confined to a small courtyard at the foot of the ramp out their door, as well as the space beneath the elevated coop.

Cyndie tossed a little food as I was preparing to take some pictures while they were out and about. That resulted in most of the heads being down and the butts up.

I didn’t make it out to see the show when Cyndie moved them back into the coop for the night, but she said it was quite a spectacle. She had read one suggestion about training them to come in for the night by regularly using a unique call and shaking a little container of food for enticement.

I asked her what her call was going to be. She didn’t have anything specific worked out yet. I think it might be, “Here chicks.”

Sounds like they were unimpressed with her offerings.

At first none of them wanted to go in. Then one headed inside on its own accord, but when it realized it was alone in there, it came back out.

After Cyndie got a couple of them inside, one chose to lay down right in front of the door, obstructing the opening.

With the food offering failing to impress them and Cyndie’s call not inspiring action, it was time to resort to the long hooked stick to pull them in by their feet.

All this was accompanied by Delilah’s unwelcome barking, which did not contribute one bit to Cyndie’s calm demeanor.

In fact, from the house, it sounded like there was some cursing going on down there. At least, from what I could sense between the barking.

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Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

Not Quite

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First of all, I have good news and bad news to report on Dezirea’s progress. The good news is that she is showing interest in eating and behaving much less depressed. The bad news is that she is showing very little, if any progress toward returning to normal manure production. She remains under close supervision, but we have decided on a path of minimal intervention for now.

I caught several frames of activity on the trail cam a couple of nights ago, but the best way I can describe what appeared in the series of images is, the camera captured Predator in invisible stealth mode. It was actually kinda creepy.

It doesn’t show up in a single image, but when a series of multiple images is toggled, the blur of translucent motion is detectable. One possibility is that a deer was moving too fast for the camera speed. I suspect deer because a minute later, the view picked up an extreme closeup of a fraction of the rear flank of what can only have been a deer passing directly in front of the camera.

There aren’t any other animals that size, except for maybe the Predator.

It’s not quite warm enough for the chickens to be given full access to their little courtyard, but in the days ahead, the forecast looks promising. The birds are showing great interest. Cyndie snapped a shot of two of them enjoying the view out their picture window.

Delilah seems even more anxious for them to come out than they are. Lately, there is nothing about her behavior that assures me she understands their protected status in the hierarchy of our domestic animals.

I’m pretty sure she is not quite there.

Just like Dezirea is not quite back to normal health.

We are standing by expectantly, sending love to all our critters for good health and mutual respect.

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Written by johnwhays

May 4, 2017 at 6:00 am