Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘chickens

Three Chicks

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With John and Cyndie still up north, the chickens will take their turn at guest-blogging for a day. Hold your applause until you’ve actually read their scratching.

Still Surviving

Barred.1: Is this thing on?

Buff: We are typing this out silly, not clucking.

Barred.2: Run away!

Barred.2: Oh. Never mind. Thought I saw the dog.

Barred.1: Please don’t keep doing that. You trigger memories of the massacre.

Buff: Do John’s blog readers know about six/sixteen? Oh how we miss our lost sisters.

Barred.1 & 2 at the same time: [unintelligible]

Buff: But we still have each other.

Barred.2: And we have our safe tree over John’s compost piles, despite their efforts to convince us otherwise.

Barred.1: Why won’t they let us roost there over night? It saved me back on six/sixteen!

Buff: I think they are afraid that snazzy coop John built might go to waste if we don’t sleep in it overnight.

Barred.2: Seems like as soon as you convinced me to join you in that tree they started knocking us out of it with brooms.

Buff: I heard John and Cyndie talking about getting more chickens. I’m not sure what I think about that. She raised us since we were a day old. How do we just accept a flock of strangers into our space?

Barred.1: But maybe they will know how to lay eggs. Then maybe Cyndie would take out those neon plastic ones from the nest boxes that she thought would help us figure it out.

Barred.2: Eggs! Do we have to? I thought we were just supposed to eat bugs. Lord knows, they have enough of them.

Buff: OMG. I can’t eat enough to give those horses a break. The biting flies were harassing them something awful the other day. Legacy almost squished me when he was stomping to shake them loose.

Barred.2: Well, Cyndie has been trying to coax us to the coop at dusk with so many raspberries, I worry about my figure if eat insects all day too.

Barred.1: [squawk!] Hah! I know! But she’s so cute with her sweet little-girl cooing voice, I can’t resist.

Buff: Were we supposed to be writing something for the blog?

Barred.1: What’s a blog?

Barred.2: Some relative thing John does in his spare time, I think.

Buff: They are supposed to be home tonight. We can ask him then.

Barred.2: Can you wait until Cyndie serves up  bedtime treats before you ask?

Barred.1: You’re such a chicken.

Barred.2: Takes one to know one.

Buff: [buc booaaaack!]

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Written by johnwhays

July 23, 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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Coming Around

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A day later, I’m coming around to the idea that I will be able to figure out a modification that will sub-divide the coop into two smaller apartments. I guess I just need to whine about it first. Upon further review, I’m pretty sure we can come up with something that can work.

Maybe my knee-jerk reaction of pessimism is a way of balancing Cyndie’s unbridled optimism on projects like this. If I don’t think I can do it, she will take care of it herself, regardless her rather unreliable spatial relations perception, and currently, her limit of only one available arm.

Don’t for one minute assume her having only one useable arm has stopped her from accomplishing anything. It slows her down a little bit, but she still has managed to do way more than seems possible around here.

I felt a little like the questionable photographer when I kept snapping shots of her struggling to scoop piles of grass that we had raked up. Sure, I could have set the camera down and helped her, but she was actually doing pretty well without me.

As soon as I finished raking, I took over the scooping chore from her and she wandered away to a different spot to pull weeds.

We opened up the back pasture to the horses so they could keep us company while we worked, but they weren’t our only companions. Delilah, who Cyndie had tethered nearby, alerted us to the appearance of chickens. How nice of them to come help.

I had just been thinking of them a few minutes earlier when I spotted a big juicy bug pop out from a pile of grass. I figured that would appeal to the chickens. Maybe they picked up on my thinking.

They happen to be about as good a helper as the dog has proved to be when I am working. If I move something, Delilah likes to move it back for me. The chickens checked out our raked piles by kicking them to smithereens in search of a snack.

We think the three survivors of the great chicken massacre of June 16 may have a little PTSD over the event. They no longer put themselves to bed in the coop at dusk. Many nights I would find one of the Barred Plymouth Rocks up on a branch in the same tree where I found her that fateful night.

Now she has lured the others to join her. At first, it was just the Buff Orpington, but two nights ago, it was all three of them up in that tree as the sun disappeared. Cyndie just alerts me, the one of us with two useable arms, and I come out to pluck them from the branch, one at a time, unceremoniously returning them to the coop for the night.

Last night, retraining to the coop started anew. We round them up before they take to the tree at dusk and herd them over to the coop, to be enticed inside with treats.

And we want to get more of these birds?

I’m coming around to the idea.

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Written by johnwhays

July 10, 2017 at 6:00 am

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

Dust Bathing

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While I was busy sprucing up the property, the chickens were sprucing up themselves with a rousing dust bath yesterday afternoon. Apparently, two of them had simultaneous interest in the exact same spot of sandy ground. If it hadn’t been for their two different colors, I wouldn’t have been able to tell where one left off and the other started.

The three of them were pretty cute in their companionship earlier in the day when I was turning the piles of compost. They would climb up on the pile I was working on, startling a little bit each time I tossed another scoop on the heap. Not intending to alarm them, I would switch to a different pile to work, after which they would migrate over to help me on that pile.

After a few hours of compost management, I pulled out the Grizzly with our towable grader/rake and did some laps in the round pen to disrupt the uninvited weedy grasses that love taking root in the sand. Maybe the chickens will take a liking to the newly raked sand over there.

Finally, I cranked up the lawn tractor to mow the yard and all the nooks and crannies from the house to the road.

I feel ready to return to the day-job. The next big task demanding attention is the labyrinth. With Cyndie reduced to one working arm, that garden has been mostly neglected. It is something I can probably do after work one of these nights, if I have any energy for the project. The grass and weeds have gotten tall and thick, so it won’t be a quick and easy job.

When that is completed, I need to get after the north pasture, where Cyndie has already removed the fence webbing. I want to pull the T-posts that remain standing and then knock down the shoulder-high growth with our brush cutter. That will be an adventure in mowing what you can’t see.

Sure hope the chickens stay out of that field.

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Pickin’ Time

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Today is Independence Day in the U.S. I’m not sure whether there is added significance about the holiday this year, but it feels more complicated than usual with the turmoil over the bizarre turn our national government has taken, starting early in the Presidential campaign season, then through the change of administration and beyond, and all the while, compounded by the apparent ongoing meddling of foreign nations.

Did someone say “Russia?” Cough, cough.

Are we still an independent country? “One nation, under multinational corporations, indivisible…”

Regardless, we will be celebrating the day by mowing grass, composting manure, and picking raspberries. We returned from the lake yesterday afternoon, despite the gorgeous conditions beckoning us to stay. There was just too much work to be done at home.

Unfortunately, more than gets done in one day, but what a difference a day can make. I’m confident I will feel just fine by the time I throw in the towel tonight and head in for a shower and some dinner.

We took a little reconnaissance walk around the property last evening and found horses and chickens in good order. Most noteworthy was the amount of progress visible in the raspberry bushes compared to how they looked when we left on Friday.

Without delay, Cyndie got a bowl and started collecting berries. Soon, the chickens arrived to join her. It appears she will have some added competition this year on picking raspberries.

Another new addition to our landscape is bursting open like 4th of July fireworks! The first of the many colors of lilies at the top of our driveway are in full bloom.

It was a nice treat welcoming us home.

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Written by johnwhays

July 4, 2017 at 6:00 am