The Only Chick

The latest broody hen hatched out just one chick.

Unfortunately, she decided she was NOT done sitting on the rest of her eggs, and insistently refused to get up and start mothering, for several days (!).

I attempted to adopt the lone chick into the clutch that hatched four days earlier.  Four days makes a difference – the newer chick is significantly smaller.  I moved the chick in the night and put her under the other hen, but in the morning, I saw the hen pecking the intruder on the head!  Yikes!  Adoption not successful.

What to do?  Take the eggs away?  That could mean killing chicks that are almost baked, as the setting hens usually seem to know when their eggs are alive or not.

Luckily, the mother finally got up off  her eggs and got about the business of early chick education.

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The only chick and mother in the chick cycle rotation.  Upgrade to the chickery.

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I go to put them out in the morning, and she’s laid an egg!  This hen is so ready for more chicks.

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I love this stage where they get a little puff for a tail

 

Fall is here

After a terribly dry summer, the temperature suddenly dropped and it seems fall is here; the hot days are gone.

Week after week this summer the weather reports have been tantalizingly forecasting possible showers, but those much-talked-about teasers always vanish the day before they happen into the blazing sun icon – again – a whole row of full suns, week after week.

The apples are small, the grass is dry, we’ve already had a frost, and now, the weather has shifted into the third season and is plotting a course of decreasing temperatures – signalling to all that the last push of work – the last chance to do it, is on.

It’s time for toques in the morning – wardrobe change!

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Eggplant

This is my favorite way (pretty much, only way) to prepare eggplant.

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Eggplant sliced a 1/2 inch thick, sliced fresh tomatoes, and grated or sliced cheese.  Grind black pepper liberally (I added sliced green olives to this batch).   Hose down with olive oil and bake until the cheese bubbles.

Really, it’s like mini-pizzas with eggplant for the “crust”.

Finally rain!

Real rain.  45mm!  We’ve had a handful of sprinkles in August, just enough to dampen the crust, but scratch the surface and it’s dry dry dry for inches.  Our wells are dry, but our caught rainwater is keeping up with our drinking needs.  Nothing can be watered – only the greenhouse gets our grey water, and it is holding out surprisingly well.

But now, real rain!  All the barrels are full!

Gatekeeper

We have a gate on our driveway.  Our driveway passes right through the ancient orchard, and apples drop all over the roadway.  One big branch arches over the road laden with lots of apples, but tiny ones- small because of the drought.

We drive through the gate almost every day.  Almost every day these days, the gate is decorated.20160913_085943

There’s a chipmunk that thinks the gate is the best snack spot ever, and he leaves multiple partially chewed apples balancing on the edge of the boards that make the swinging gate, or on top of the post that anchors it.

Even funnier, there will be an apple with some chews, then later less of the same apple, still later mostly an apple core, balanced in the same spot.

Sometimes, we even drive up and see the chipmunk hugging his apple on his perch.  Eeep!  He leaves his apple behind, rocking like a nicked bowling pin,  and darts away, tail straight up.

Other chipmunks in our life

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Super weird insect thing of the day

I hardly knew what I was seeing at first, but it was an insect of unknown type wrapped in a thick parka of small pink spider-like attack insects.

She fell into a piece of flashing I was using, and even with this load of hitchhikers, she was walking around and desperately trying to scrape the offenders off her head with her forelegs.

A bad day for this insect.

20160903_145741 I tried to interfere.  I dropped it in some water, imagining that the small attackers would release their prey under the greater threat.

No.   It just made the situation worse for the beetle, who was now swimming for her already beseiged life.  The attackers were totally unperturbed.

I tried scraping them off with my finger, and got enough off to briefly see it was an orange and black beetle, a kind I see all the time.

The scraped off bugs just surged back with the speed of ball bearings rolling toward a magnet.  They were unstoppable.  And fast.

I let her go in some grass and she was last seen apparently trying to bury herself.

So strange!

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The upside of drought

We’ve had an epic atypical drought this year in Nova Scotia this year.  Especially inland where we are.  The coasts have had more rain. We have had about 25mm total from May through August.

Everything is parched.  Forest fires are raging in the area, wells are running dry, and the impact on agriculture is making the news.

The ground is dry, cracking, and powdery anywhere it doesn’t have a vegetal cover.  Wind blows skirls of dust across the ground.

However, these are ideal conditions for chicken bathing.

20160803_102807I come around the corner and find the rooster indulging.  He’s doesn’t usually get caught in the bath.20160803_102812

He just looked at me, and declined to lift his Henry VIII body out of his dust bowl.20160803_102944

 

 

To give a chicken joy

Ye Olde Silkie pen, aka Silkieland, is a flimsy contraption along the lines of the chickery, where the hardware cloth folds out on the ground and is anchored by rocks.  Like HW says, it’s more like a mobile home than a trailer – technically, it’s portable.

It’s a royal pain to move the thing, because it’s long and floppy.  All the rocks need to be moved off, then all the grass that’s grown through the mesh needs to be tugged loose, then the whole rickety thing needs to be dragged sideways, the coop (full of grumbling chickens) needs to be moved, and the pen reattached to it, then the rocks replaced.  And everything that just broke in the struggle needs to be patched up.20160720_142435

However, it’s all worth it to watch how excited the birds get when first released.  Excitedly burbling, all of them scatter and burrow into the grass.  They are so clearly experiencing great joy that I promptly forget how much it all sucked.

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Before
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After
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You can’t even SEE chicks
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Can barely see the brown hens

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Guinea Chicks!

I’m so excited!  I’ve got a shipment of little guinea chicks!20160828_112142

They were in a Pepsi box when I picked them up – a loud box, objecting to being moved around.  They settled down on my lap for the ride home, and then I carried them gently to the hen yard.

The guineas are going to get the chickery for the time being.  The former residents got bumped up to Silkieland the night before – their final promotion.  I also moved Silkieland, so that everyone in there would have maximum entertainment on the chicks’ first day. 20160828_112229Inside the box.  Seven little striped brown heads – they look nothing like they will when they grow up.20160828_112322I tore open the box and placed it in the chickery to let them come out on their own time.20160828_112516A half hour later.

There they are, all settled down.

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Another half hour later.

They are approximately one centimeter nearer to the door of their box.

Their own time is never fast enough for me.  I tore the lid further open (alarmed cheeping!) and left them alone again20160828_121606An hour later.

All of them hiding behind the box!

And then, a bit later, busy foraging like normal chicks:

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Adorable.  They have these wide orange beaks, like tiny puffins, except they look mostly like striped chicken chicks.

They happily darted about being chicks all day, and at night we went to box them up and move them into the greenhouse.  This is what we found:20160828_143502

They were all tucked up, nearly invisible, as concealed as they could manage in the short grass.  So clever, already.

I’m going to attempt an adoption.  It’s a bit of a stretch, but these are little African birds that just came out from under a lamp, so they are going to be cold without a heat source.

I took a hen out of the Silkie coop that just went broody, and I’m going to swap out her eggs tonight for a bunch of guineas.

Surprise!  Your eggs hatched super fast!  And the chicks are unusually large. 


The Adoption failed.  I tucked the guineas under the broody hen in the night and slipped out the eggs and no one was very perturbed.

In the morning though, the hen utterly refused to mother them, and completely ignored them when I put them all in the chickery.

She was NOT fooled.

In fact, she was clearly pining, staring through the bars of the cage. To underline her disconsolation, while I was watching her she lifted a leg and wistfully rested her foot on the mesh wall like a hand, in appeal.

I couldn’t resist, I promptly put her back in a box with a set of eggs.

And now, a bunny story

Unfortunately there’s no picture of this.

HW was walking along our path.  He spotted a bunny about 50 feet ahead of him, hopping towards him.

It’s very usual to see bunnies; we have a lot of rabbits around and see them every day.  They even have their usual spots.  There’s the beehive bunny, the chicken coop bunny, the other chicken coop bunny, the driveway bunny, the end of the road bunny….

This was the shop bunny, he’s already known for daily appearances and odd behaviour.  We’re not sure if all his screws are tight.

This bunny was running towards HW, not at running-away-from-something speed, but rabbit-on-his-way-somewhere speed.  Hop hop hop.  He was also drenched, his hair pasted down on his body by the rainwater on the long grass and weeds.

HW stopped on the trail and stood still, to watch this wet bunny approach.

The bunny ran right up to him, and came to a stop between his feet.  The bunny swung his head to one side, then the other, wiggling his nose to sniff each of HW’s boots.  Then without looking up (Huh.  That’s a bit different.   *shrug*), the bunny hopped between his feet and carried on down the path at the same speed!  Hop hop hop!

Eulogy for a dog

I have to just go ahead and post this…(this has sucked the life out of June/July)…

I wrote this the last day of May (but didn’t get round to posting it), after our best friend had been missing six weeks. As we were to learn later, May 31 was shortly after he would have actually died.  The awful circumstances of his death were far worse than I had imagined….(explained end of post).

Eulogy to the most beautiful Dog

I’m beginning to accept that he is gone for good.  Dead, somehow, somewhere.  Not just lost, misplaced, but lost, gone.

Devastating doesn’t really cover it.
It’s a terrible loss; he’s missing, everywhere, everything I do, since I used to do everything with him.
I haven’t really yet felt any grief.
I get to keep thinking, “but he’s so beautiful and friendly, maybe he’s ingratiated himself into someone else’s life and he’s fine. Someday he’ll escape and come back, or not.”  I want to believe that he’s fine, moving on to another phase of life that is hopefully comfortable for him.

So far his dog’s life was a hard, difficult life, thrice rescued/rejected as unmanageable, and  we did a good job with him, slowly. He was such a mental case at first that the first several, miserable (why did you want a dog?) months were just managing and controlling him, to establish his place as a dog.  At the end, it was getting interesting, once we were mutually attached and he was content and secure in his place, teachable and proud of learning.   We had come to a really good place with him.  He earned some trust by being obedient and predictable, and he was much much calmer.

Continue reading Eulogy for a dog

You won’t believe this one weird habit of bumblebees!

The bumblebees have this strange habit that I don’t understand.

Overnight, they latch onto the underside of the goldenrod flowers, and hang there overnight.  It gets cold enough for all of them to go catatonic, and they cling there overnight, curled hard and still as if they were dead, not reacting to being brushed or touched.

This is not just  a few bees that get caught out too late.  There can be a dozen on one big goldenrod plume, and since we have a lot of goldenrod, in the evening and the morning, we can look across a swathe of it and see hundreds of bees, hanging still like odd fruit.  20160804_075643

Then once the sun casts across them in the morning, they reanimate, and take up where they left off, buzzing, grazing, and bumbling.  Sometimes it goes badly- the weather will change, and I’ll see them caught out in a cool or rainy morning.

So weird!  Is this just a thing that they do?  Too busy to go home at night? They do it for many nights in the summer, during the goldenrod rush.

More Silkie chicks

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So cute, little blunt wings and variegated colouring

Another box has started peeping – the peeping in that end of the greenhouse is my first clue there’s been a hatching.  Mother hen is maintaining eye contact from the background. 20160720_122004

This summer, except for the only chick,  the hens have all hatched 5 or 6 chicks from 7 or 8 eggs, and if there’s an odd number, it’s to the advantage of white.  The white hen (only one, of two, has gone broody), is a terrible setter (three times failed) while the brown hens are all models of success, although none of them have ever done it before.  All the brown hens are last summer’s chicks – baby pictures.  But the whites seem to get their eggs in the right place, like cuckoos.20160720_122013

This is the strenuous objection pose.  They press their wings down into the floor as a barrier so hard their body tips up until they practically do a headstand.

The Chick Cycle, and Hen-in-a-box

First comes the broody hen.  Usually I find her staunchly defending her post on at least twenty eggs, spread out like a feather pancake futilely trying to cover them all.

They have no restraint. That’s why she goes in the box.  I let her keep seven or eight eggs, and make up a bunk with hay and a glass of water and a dish of food.  At times I have three boxes all lined up. 20160620_072455In there each hen “sleeps” in her broody trance uninterrupted except for getting her vittles refreshed.

Then they hatch.  Immediately, I move the whole family and unhatched eggs into a fresh box.  That broody box has all poop and spilled feed and water under the hay, so they need a clean box to start life in.  I find it takes two days usually for all the birds to hatch, and the chicks take it easy those first couple days, spending their time dozing under mom, transitioning to life outside the shell.

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Then the chicks decide to pop out from underwing, and start hopping around, jumping in the water and stuff.  They get another day or two in a more sizable box, with room to run around and spill all the food.  Sometimes the hen is still sitting on an egg, but she will very soon give it up and start mothering.

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Next they go into the indoor playpen, which is just a big box opened up against the screen door for ventilation, and arranged on the greenhouse floor, which is dirt, of course, and a layer of wood chips.  Now the mom will start to teach chicken life skills.  20160723_070037Scratching, drinking.  20160723_06581420160723_065756The beak sweep, the beak wipe.20160704_072546

And of course, the dust bathing.

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20160723_06590220160723_065953 20160723_065922She can see the world out there through the screen door.

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After a few days in the playpen, then they all go in the chickery.

20160728_095915 20160728_095921 Whoohoo!  Grass!  This is a frabjous day.  20160728_095948

At night, I have to lift all the chicks and mom into a box and shut them in the greenhouse overnight, for safety.  In the morning, I carry a cheeping box back outside and empty it into the chickery.

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Hey!

This hen thinks I’ve slept in too long, and it’s high time that they get let outside.

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Hey!!

 

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HEY!

Eventually, after a week, two, or more, or single parenting, the family will be put into Silkieland with the main flock. 20160720_142501 I have to say, it’s working great.  Waiting until the chicks are older to put them in the coop avoids the daily in and out woes.  Their little chicken brains are developed enough after the chickery daycare  to learn how to go in and out quite rapidly.

Dinosaurs among us

HW came running to get me.  “You have to come look at this!”

He ran back all the way down our path to next to the garden, and in the grass right next to the path, there was this:

20160714_175714My instinct was of course to immediately lean down to touch it, an instinct I luckily arrested halfway there, freezing in place.   No!  Don’t touch!

Apparently, that big snapping turtle that lives in the culvert on the road, that’s been too wily (and fast) for me to catch on camera before, decided to walk up here, apparently headed for the garden, and got intercepted at a path.  20160714_175746She’s not happy about it.20160714_175704More than likely, she is  a she, looking for a place to lay some eggs.

Behind her, there is a path cut through the weeds, showing exactly where she came from.  20160714_175838

Since it’s been so dry and she walked a half klick from the creek, I left a bowl of water, and after a brief photo shoot, we left her alone.

What a prehistoric creature!  Turtles are so…different, and ancient.  It’s like looking at a dinosaur come to life.

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An hour later, the turtle was gone.  Her path did not continue, so she either retraced her steps exactly in disgust after the attention, or walked along our path for a time before she left it into the woods, weeds, or garden (more likely).  Who knows!

 

crows roosting

Now I know where the crows roost in our nearest town.

I’ve never seen a crow roost before, but I’ve read about it.  Crows converge at night to sleep together in a huge social group, although they spend most of their days alone or in small family groups.  They have a designated place they gather.

They spend the evening before settling down socializing, sharing information, fighting, flirting.

Unexpectedly, while I waited in the parking lot for HW to come out of the grocery store, I discovered where the city crows sleep.  Right in the heart of town.

Just before dark, they were swirling around the treetops of these few tall trees, settling down and then skirling up again, putting on swooping chases and synchronized flight maneuvers, diving and landing and taking off again, shouting raucously all the while. The trees were dotted with them and the sky full of action.

They were loud!  A big crow social hour; a party before bed.

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Chickery!

I made a floorless chick pen!  It’s pretty simple.  Four uprights, the same size, and then eight horizontals, made of lath.  It’s two feet tall, and I know that because I used one continuous piece of three foot (1/4″) hardware cloth, slit the corners up 12″, and folded them out.  20160705_133148

The hardware cloth is actually stapled between the lath and the uprights, for anyone looking real close, so it’s very much secured there.

It’s not exactly a tractor, but it’s very portable.  I put it out in the field, and eight rocks hold down the outflaps of hardware cloth, so that chicks can’t tunnel under the edge, and predators are likely to find it inconvenient to get under the edge too, should they come around in the day.

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This chick is almost completely under the wall, in a little dip

It takes only a couple minutes to move all the rocks off, relocate it, and replace the rocks.

This is going to be the middle stage of the Chick Cycle.  I want the chicks to be outside as soon as possible, but it’s proved dangerous in the past to put them in with the whole flock when they are tiny, so this is a middle stage.

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Waiting for rain

It’s that kind of day.

It’s been so hot, for so long.  Everything is parched, tired, thirsty.  Fire risk is high.

Every day I haul water to keep the greenhouse and garden residents alive.

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My broccoli is thriving!  A surprise.  Cabbages utterly failed last year, so I thought cruciferae didn’t agree with my garden.

Also I have 5 asparagi! (yeah yeah, asparguses).  Asparagus is the first thing we ever planted, our first month here, but that attempt didn’t take.  The asparaguys wanted a more prepared bed.  Now they seem happy.

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A honeybee working a blackberry cane by the well.

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We’re standing on a pile of sticks. What’s it to ya?

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I tried to add my fingers for scale. didn’t really help

I found this enormous spider.

She was bigger than my cell phone is wide.

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Everywhere, snakes.  Snakes like it hot.

Strawberry snack

Going back to strawberry season….

I’ve got a chipmunk helping him/herself in the strawberry beds.

Every so often I hear a surprised “Eeep!” when I’m working in the garden, but I rarely see the culprit.

However, I see the meal interrupted on his table, which is the cutest part.

She is carrying the strawberries from the bed up onto this old chair, and enjoying a strawberry supper with a view.

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He’s picking the strawberries at the stem.  I knew I’d seen a few berries that appeared picked, which I thought odd, but I guess I interrupted the picker before she’d carried them away.

This is so cute, he’s allowed to keep it up.

Today at work I fed the future layers some lettuce.

These birds have decided that people are terrifying, and jam themselves in a corner to hide.

They’re just past the awkward stage.

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They’re hiding. As hard as they can.

One intrepid bird always sticks their neck out first.

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Hmm. Is this worth coming out for?

I had to be outside, with the door closed, before they would emerge from hiding.

Chickens in a box- lockdown!

Since the most determined little brown hen got up off her eggs for the second time, right before they were due, toasting another clutch, I finally listened to HW and removed her from the coop and locked her up.  This is her third nearly-complete round, and that’s a long time for her to be sitting and mostly not eating.

Another brown hen went broody at the same time, and I got to them just in time, as each already had an eight egg horde- a little ambitious, but it’s summer, so I let them keep all eight.  Now they are boxed.

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HW and I went back and forth- I have had bad luck when I interfere with them, but it has also not gone well when I don’t interfere with them.  They find ways to screw up; it’s very frustrating.  He told me “just take them out of the coop entirely, then there’s no distractions, no more eggs to steal”.  This means I will have to reintroduce them to the flock, and learning how to go in and out of the coop may be that much harder, but we’ll cross that hurdle once we get some chicks, I suppose.

They are in ventilated boxes next to the door of the greenhouse.  I’m a bit paranoid of them getting too hot in there, and how secure are they in the GH at night?, but so far, so good.  There is always a healthy cooling  draft through the GH.  They each have a fount with their poultry vitamin supplement (chicken Gatorade), and a little bowl of food, which they both consume a little of every day, I’m glad, and I sometimes have to scoop their poop.

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There are four more sister hens and the original white hen (outside), who is a little old lady now.  She seems to have shrunk, so tiny when you pick her up.  Still cranky though.  If any more drop into the broody trance, I’m going to have a whole lineup of bird boxes.

Happy about living naturally