Wednesday, 19 September 2018

An Unfortunate Sound

My my, my. It has been a while since I've posted. Life is busy and perhaps it's best to focus on the mundane. A little while ago you read about my foray into the world of chickens again. I wrote about losing the little black hen named Raven. I've also since lost a laying hen (no name) to some kind of respiratory illness that couldn't be treated with the only broad spectrum antibiotics available here at the local co-op. It happens.

These are laying hens in the evening setting sun.

Very pastural, yes?

This is not.

"What? Me? Not pastural?"

No, in fact, this morning I discovered that creature right here, that I was told may be part Buff Orpington and, therefore, called Buffy (do I have a way with names or what?) is NOT a hen.

I normally get up, shower, have coffee, then walk out to the chicken coop (heaven help me, still in my bathrobe!) and let the "girls" out of the coop and into their fenced run, then finish getting ready for work. This morning at about 7:00 a.m., I heard Buffy let loose an awkward crow. Then another crow. Then three more crows.

Yes, Buffy is now just Buff. I was hoping, against hope, that this was a hen. I was looking forward to seeing the eggs she would lay. I was looking forward to having a hen that was a little different from my standard brown laying hens. Now I have a rooster.

Ahhhhh, but I don't have just one rooster. Observe if you will, Bruce.

This hunk of husky-legged, glossy black/green developing tail feathers is Bruce. Bruce hasn't crowed yet, but I wouldn't be shocked to hear him answer Buff in the next few days. He will be a very handsome fellow when he is fully mature.


… may I present Nugget. Nugget was hatched out the same time as the deceased Raven. Nugget is younger than Buff and Bruce. Nugget has a big set of legs, too. You know where I'm going with this. I have a feeling that the only little hen that I bought when I got those four young birds was Raven. But what the heck do I know? Maybe she would have grown up to be a gorgeous black rooster. NOBODY needs that many roosters.

Life with chickens. Husband did crack a double yolker today, so at least there's that.

Friday, 31 August 2018

August Winds Down

This morning felt like Fall. We've had rain and cooler nights and last night daughter made ginger molasses cookies to take to work because of how it "feels" right now. However, I had a look at the weekly forecast and the heat (with more rain) will be back soon enough.

A colleague whose husband is a farmer quoted him by saying, "If you have livestock, you're going to have deadstock." And that's what we had. As you know, we got chickens again after a five year break. Of the four young ones we started with, we now have only three of those. The smallest one had been picked on relentlessly. We gave her a couple of "safe havens" both in the coop and outside in the run. I even separated her completely in a cage, but she fussed and squawked so much wanting to return to her "peeps" that I put her back. I noticed she was spending more time just in the coop and then started to have that "hunched chicken" look about her  (any readers who have chickens will likely know what I mean). I bought water soluable antibiotics from the local feed supply store. Our other chicken we have named  Bruce because we suspect she might be a he, was sounding rattley (also NOT a good thing when it comes to chickens), so a round of antibiotics would be a good thing in that case, too. If you hear one rattley chicken, it's good to treat everyone (we won't use the eggs during this time). Anyway, long story short, even after isolating her completely and bringing her into the mudroom in the cat cage and literally eye dropping antibiotic laced water down her little beak, the little black chicken died. Yes, it happens. Her antibiotics cost more than she did and I feel bad, but the truth of the matter is that sometimes you just can't save a chicken.

Other news, the garden is a scary mess. The weeds have taken over completely. This didn't happen by magic, although the heat and rain have certainly contributed, but you know how you just don't want to keep up with your vegetable gardening chores at the end of the season and you stop weeding? Well, that's exactly what I did. I stopped weeding. And it shows. However, there are some lovely tomatoes and I will be digging my FIRST new potatoes for tonight's supper and we've had green beans and I don't even care about the cucumbers any more. How many cucumbers can one family eat? I only planted two plants!! Tonight we are planning on 'springing Nana from the home' and having her here for a visit and supper, so she will enjoy the fresh garden produce, no doubt.

Eighteen year old son bought his first car a little while ago. He got a great deal because it is a standard (manual) and the man who sold it to him has bad knees and can't drive it anymore (thinking of Joanne's post now). It's an older Mustang (don't even ask me what year, don't remember, don't care) and it is bright yellow with black striping. I'll know it's him on the road! It needed some work done on it to be certified, which wonderful husband did for him and yesterday it was taken to our local garage where certification was completed. Today is licensing and all those finalities and finally he will be able to drive it. Mind you, he needs some lessons in driving a stick shift, but he's a smart kid and will be fine (says I, who does NOT drive a stick shift). I swear our property now looks like a used car lot!

I binge watched some Netflix recently, watching a series called Marcella (British crime detective...). I enjoyed it, but not as much as some others I have watched like Broadchurch, Hinterland, River, or Shetland. I did watch some new episodes of Happy Valley which were pretty good as well. Why is it we have so many channels (although, not the full package) to watch on tv and I am loath to watch about 95% of what's on right now? Honestly, I'll watch a rerun of Mash rather than some ridiculous Housewives of Somewhere show. Ughhh, I'll be so happy when the trend of "reality tv" is over, hopefully replaced by something more intelligent and entertaining.

We are approaching our Labour Day weekend here. School begins the day after labour day, so Tuesday of this coming week. We currently have no plans, but I would like to perhaps do a little local road trip, try a new place to eat, maybe take in a fall fair somewhere. The end of August is such a turning point. Even if we still have a heat wave after this, it's now considered a Fall heat wave, not a summer one regardless of the fact that the first official day of Autumn is September 23rd this year.

Well that's my rambling done. No doubt the rest of you are feeling the Autumn change? I'm going to read what the rest of you are up to now.

Monday, 20 August 2018

Along came a spider and sat down beside her...

On my way out to let out the chickens this morning, I spied this:

To give you an idea of size, I've held up my reading glasses beside her.

This is her close up. Isn't her beautiful?

I've posted once before about this kind of spider, but they are so beautiful, and so strikingly large. This is the Yellow Garden Spider, one of Ontario's largest orb weavers. This is a female (research tells me the males are much smaller). The zigzag line in the web is called a "stabilimentum" and after reading about that, there is much debate as to why some spiders include a stabilimentum in their construction (hiding spot, warning to birds, reflects ultraviolet rays to attract insects...).

I do not fear spiders. I'm not keen to have one walk up my arm, but that's just a sensation thing. I am from the generation who "knew" Charlotte as the benevolent creature who could spin words into her webs and whose life sadly ended after befriending Wilbur, the runt pig. To me, spiders are good.

I don't fear bees or worms or praying mantises... but these guys completely creep me out:


House centipedes are FAST and run in my bathroom at awkward times. (That's the price you pay for having an old house, I guess).

Are you brave when it comes to bugs, or do you run screaming?

Friday, 17 August 2018

Nothing like a good (dust) bath

I went out to the chicken run in the hopes of getting a picture of a resident chipmunk who, the cheeky thing, has now gone from sneaking into the run and eating the chicken feed that gets flung and scratched outside of the tin, to sitting directly inside and stuffing his cheeks to the maximum.

As soon as I came close to the fence, I got this:


Then I noticed a hen who was in the middle of sheer, total chicken heaven. For those of you who don't know, chickens dig. A LOT. They especially like to decimate any existing grass and create a hollow spot.

No, she is not dead.

She is having a dust bath. Chickens use their legs to scratch the dry dirt like crazy, and then roll around in it, spreading out their wings, rolling their heads, twisting and turning from side to side.

Chickens use dust baths to clean amongst their feathers, especially if they have mites or other common tiny pests.

They love it. Even our smallest little birds take dust baths. When they are finally all done, they stand up and fluff themselves, releasing a surprising amount of "dust" into the air around them. That's not what this girl is doing. She's still bathing, churning up the dirt into her feathers.

While I was out there, I took a picture of our two littlest hens (Raven and no-name).

They are still the lowest on the pecking order and probably always will be. Even though I've provided them with a "safe space" in the coop, they choose to do their own thing, squeezing themselves between the wall and a box.

I leave you with tandem preening.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

August 15

How's that for a grabbing post title? August has such a feel to it, doesn't it? Crickets. It is all about crickets. The air feels different. I do like August. I've picked some more green beans, cucumbers, and zucchini from the garden. I was planning on blanching and freezing some beans, but haven't done so yet. I have laundry on the line, and I decided to make old fashioned rice pudding. It's in the oven right now. I've just been craving it. I really wanted to put raisins in it, but knew nobody else would eat it if I did (perhaps that's what I should have done!).

I don't know about you, but I would not win awards for my housekeeping. I clean what needs to be cleaned enough so that everything is kept under control and tidy, and if company is coming then that is great motivation to really get in there and do a good job, but there are other tasks which go undone for a long time! Those areas that don't get seen by other people's eyes tend to suffer. Today I hauled the vacuum upstairs and gave our bedroom a good going over, took all the little thingys off of the tops of the dressers and bedside tables and did a thorough dusting. I even dusted pictures on walls and chair rails. That's what I mean about if nobody else sees it. It's just us. I'm the cleaner in the family and husband NEVER complains, so it gets done when I feel I want to do it. However, I am glad to have it done properly now. (Don't worry, toilets also got scrubbed). How would you rate yourself as a housekeeper:  Surgically clean, Fastidious, Pretty good, O.K., Hit and Miss, Best not to Ask, or "At least I'm not a Hoarder!"

To end this compelling post, I leave you with chickens on bench and a wrapped up cat at the pool.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Not out of Control... Yet

Thank you so much for the comments on the new four hens (?). I have joined a site called Backyard Chickens. It is chock full of great info, ideas, and forums where chicken owners can ask questions, share advice... So, I posted a couple of pictures of the new girls and asked what breeds people thought they were. A lot of the same names came up as some of you suggested (good job, bloggers!!). But alas, a guy let me know that my big one (black / brown mottled feathers) is undoubtedly a rooster. I really hope not. I've had roosters in the past.

The first rooster we had came as a package deal with a little banty hen. He was beautiful, but had "little man syndrome". His name was Rusty, a la The Friendly Giant, for all of my Canadian bloggers.  He was a nasty piece of work. Hated me, hated my son's little red rubber boots, just a horrid little animal. He was rehomed down the road at a farm that had a whole bunch of chickens.

Then the next rooster we had also came as a package deal with a beautiful hen. She was black and white, as was he. He was a gentle giant. He never crowed for the longest time. Then one day we heard him crow and it was astounding. It was like an old fashioned crow, deep and throaty, like a country western singer might put forth, the kind you'd hear in the back ground of an old black and white movie set in the west where homesteaders were carving out a life... you get the idea. His name was Pepper and his "wife" was Salt. Unfortunately, Pepper slowly lost his sight and at the end, just stayed in the coop. He was still eating and drinking but I felt sad for him. Then one fateful, horrible night, a skunk got in the coop (we hadn't closed up it when we normally did because we were out for the evening) and killed Pepper. I didn't even know skunks would do that. It was traumatizing.

Our third rooster was actually three roosters. We bought a "package" of four pretty little buff brahma chickens (at the same big farmer's market where we got all the other rooster deals) and this fiasco ended up being three roosters and one hen. (The three tenors, the three amigos, whatever you wanted to call them) They were fun. You could crow at them and make them crow back at you. They were small, but not feisty. But seriously, nobody needs three roosters. (For the uninformed, you don't need a rooster at all. Chickens naturally lay eggs regardless. Having a rooster just means the eggs can be fertilized and possibly hatched out as chicks).

Anyway.... to get back to the story at hand, the four little birds still weren't interested in going out into their run and after all the work of clearing branches, pulling giant weeds, making the chicken bench, and raking tons of wood chips, I was determined to have them go out and see what they were missing. I managed to catch the biggest of the four and placed it just outside the coop on the little ramp that goes down from the chicken door. It took a few steps down and so that started the process. It called out several distress calls ("Hey!! I'm out here alone! Hey you guys!!) and then one by one the others came out. Within a few hours, they had dug a small chicken sized hole to act as a dust bath and had a roaring good time. I introduced them to the joys of watermelon rinds and they drank water from the outdoor water pan.

Happy happy, cheep, cheep, cheep (they don't cluck yet, they're too young).

But... here's the thing. I really wanted laying hens. With these little ones I will have to wait probably another three months before any eggs are laid. I've already had a five year hiatus from hens. Husband already spent a lot of time making this coop into something great again (This Old Coop, The Coop Mahal...) and I felt things weren't exactly what I envisioned.

Before the weekend, I had been in email contact with a fellow in a town about 45 minutes from here who was selling all six of his young laying hens. He was relocating and didn't want to take them with him. I had offered to buy them, but he was going away for the weekend and I didn't have an appropriate vehicle in which to load up chicken cages, so I had to pass on the purchase. Another person was coming for them before I could make the arrangements.

Today I fired off an email to this fellow and asked out of curiosity if he had ended up selling his hens and he had not. Well, I had the vehicle, so off we went after getting directions. Nowadays, people are allowed to keep backyard hens in towns and this is what he had done. He had a lovely set up for them with a spacious coop and an covered run. He was taking very good care of them. They are red sex link, a kind I am very familiar with, and they are only six months old. They came home with us, and six of their eggs from that morning!

Welcome the six new girls:

Aren't they lovely? Healthy, happy, clucky, fluffy bummed hens. They set to work in the chicken run scratching around, eating some watermelon, and establishing a pecking order. Naturally, they are bigger then the younger hens and will be a bit bossy, but nobody got seriously hurt. Just feelings.

I absolutely cannot wait until I go out tomorrow morning and hopefully find some eggs. I took three of their own eggs and put them in the nesting boxes to get them to make the connection. I'm about to go outside and see if everyone has gone into the coop for the evening. Then I will shut the little door. I hope the little ones are "allowed" to come in by the big ones, otherwise I'll be out there trying to catch them and put them in. (Not a big fan of that. Chickens are notoriously hard to catch).

I am now the proud owner of ten birds. Not out of control, yet.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

New Hens!

We went off on a chicken hunt yesterday. The first place was quite hideous. This couple had a property set back from the road with a ramshackle small barn, an outdoor pen for goats and sheep, and a variety of pieced together chicken coops. The conditions were very crowded, poorly maintained, dirty, and practically all of the birds were missing many feathers. The woman said she had far too many roosters who were very hard on the birds and that she had gotten rid of most of her roosters a little while ago. There was no way on earth I was going to buy any of her birds. She needs to take better care of her very large flock. There were also geese and turkeys, and a handful of cats.

I was disappointed, but husband asked if there was anyone else I had been in communication with, and there was one about 40 minutes in the opposite direction. I emailed him on my cell phone and off we went. This was a fairly young guy who had a smaller amount of birds. He knew the history of his birds, could name some of the varieties, had built nice shelters for them, and many of the birds were free ranging out on the grass. Much better. The rain started to come down and I got soaked standing outside, deciding which ones to take. He was also very good to say that he wasn't totally sure if some of them were hens (or roosters), so we avoided those. I ended up buying four young birds from him. Two of them are about three months old, and two are between three and half to four months old. I still have probably three more months to wait until they begin laying eggs. This really wasn't my intention, but they were healthy looking birds that he clearly looked after.

Here are some pictures of the new girls.

The light "buff" coloured one, and the one at the back of this picture, closest to the wall, are the older two. They are thankfully not too bossy of the younger two.

The one closest is one of the younger ones. She is going to be very pretty with her black and brown feathers.

Here is the other younger one. She is kind of bizarre looking, kind of like a vulture. She has barely any comb, black legs, and occasionally you see a hint of white feathers underneath her wings. We'll see how she develops. She is the smallest of all four, but manages pretty well.

Here are three of them clustered together ready to have a tiny, thirty second snooze. You can see the white feather poking out from the little black hen's wing.

This older brown and black girl was the only one who ate the bits of lettuce I gave them. She is the biggest of all four and will be a very pretty, interesting looking hen.

I spend a ridiculous amount of time sitting in the doorway of the coop, getting them used to my presence, my voice. I want them to be comfortable around people, not a bunch of scaredy cats that will be impossible to handle if need be.

We've opened the little chicken door which has the ramp to lead out into the chicken run. I even put a little food right in the doorway. So far they have pecked at the food, but are not the least bit interested in going outside. Maybe that's a good thing. I want them to think of the coop as home and a safe place so that when they do start to go out in the run, they will automatically go in the coop in the evening. Most of our chickens roosted at night with no problem at all. I want these to be the same (although they are entirely too small to jump up on the lovely roosts that husband built). For now they will be happy to nestle down on the floor in a little cluster.

In terms of what kinds of hens these are, I'm not entirely sure. The young man had some "Easter Eggers" (lay bluish eggs), some Wyandotts, Barred rocks, perhaps some orpingtons, and then mixes of those. We shall see...