Apparently, they are sleeping on the top of the screen door.
They started getting down quite promptly when I came around opening the outer door.
Thinking about it…
Apparently, they are sleeping on the top of the screen door.
They started getting down quite promptly when I came around opening the outer door.
Thinking about it…
Few things incite as much excitement as giving cucumbers to the Silkies.
The rooster loses his mind chirping, and all the little furballs go scurrying around, grab and going with a cucumber round, crying if they can’t find one (especially the chicks – they know something excellent is happening and they’re missing out), trying to find someplace private to eat their cucumber if they have one….
I have to distribute enough slices so that everyone has at least one.
Then it gets real quiet.
Until they start to get Cucumber is Greener on the Other Side ideas.
They hollow out the centers first, sometimes leaving the outer rings until the next day.
The chickens like to perch in the branches during the day. Just a couple feet off the ground, sometimes higher.
HW says that it makes them feel like real birds. All up in the trees.
We have a new hatch record. I allowed this hen to set on 10 eggs, a compromise between the 7 or 8 i usually allow them to have, and the 20+ they try to cover. She’s one of the largest hens, and she hatched out nine of them!
Most of the time once they’re out of the egg they’re home free, but this time, two died in the first few days (both white ones). They spent a full three days hatching, so they are now five to seven days old, and already have proper little wings growing in.
When I go to put them back in the greenhouse in the evening I find this:
The chicks are coming and going from underneath mom like she’s a roof, and she’s sedately being a shelter.
Center front is a popular location.
When I’m about to transport them to the greenhouse for the night, they all come spilling out.
First I airlift mom out, then I come back for the chicks, who are acting forlorn.
They much prefer to be picked up all together in a big two handed pile. The last batch of five quietly allowed me to scoop them all up at once right up until they were big enough for the big coop, but seven all at once proves too many.
Good, because I can’t take pictures with two hands full.
Into the box for the night.
New occupants ready for the chickery means the former denizens, the last batch, got moved up to the big house last night. Even at midnight, mom was feisty, flapping around, so I stuffed her under my sweatshirt (I wanted to move mom and chicks in one shipment so as to only open the coop once). She started scratching around and climbing the inside of my shirt until she had her head stuck down my sleeve. Ok then. Apparently contented, she cooed as I stuffed the chicks one at a time into the roo pocket of my sweatshirt. Chicks always seem to like it in there. Then I dropped her into the coop, the rooster shuffling sideways on the perch to give me more than enough room, and shoveled the chicks under her. All done.
Cozy on a tree stump, didn’t bat an eye at the analog zoom (leaning in close).
Chicken treats! Giving them melon rinds is funny- A paper thin shell is left behind, marked with a thousand beak marks.
I found this bedraggled bee sitting on the plastic of my greenhouse. I don’t know what happened, but she was finished. She obviously was at the end of a run (pollen baskets full) without the strength to carry on.
Luckily, I had just made bee syrup for my bees, and (carrying this nearly-dead bee; I’d already picked her up), I went home, dipped my finger in the pot of syrup, and started walking back.
The neatest part was that a second after getting the syrup on my hand, I felt all her feet suddenly grip my skin, grabbing on. Like a hibernating robot- ACTIVATE feet! Before, she would have dropped off if I tipped my hand.
She turned, her tongue came out, and she started sucking greedily. I held her for some minutes, but after deciding I had to care for some other animals, I had to wipe her and a drop of syrup off my finger onto a perch for her to finish on her own.
I used to save bumblebees that got trapped in the house like this, with a drop of honey on a butter knife. Set them outside together and the bee will come back to life.
My observation is that bees are not truly dead unless their tongues are stuck out, however dead they otherwise appear. I examine bees apparently drowned or froze, curled up like death, and if their tongue is not protruding, I set them in the sun, or in the sun in a flower for a snack. They are almost always gone a little later, or I even see them reviving, revving up their wings. If their tongues are out, it’s too late. All over.
After rescuing another half-drowned bee I ended up crouched by the hive, captivated by the drama and taking pictures. When my camera battery died I got up to go, and then the really cool thing happened.
I got stung.
When I got up and walked away, lifting my foot squeezed the bee that had fallen or explored into the top of my shoe, and she stung the top of my bare foot. I froze, setting my foot down to relieve the pressure on her.
Remembering that my bee guru said “If you give them time, the bee can work itself out after it stings you, and go unharmed”, I thought, well, I’ll just give her a chance here. I bent down to watch.
The bee stuck to the top of my foot by her stinger was agitated. She made a couple clockwise revolutions, but then turned the other way, and decisively started running circles around her stinger anti-clockwise. She paused, hunching like she was trying to pull free, and rubbed her stinger with her back feet. Then she resumed running counter clockwise (quite fast).
She was obviously unscrewing her stinger from my skin. Amazing!
My skin was reddening and swelling in front of my eyes, beneath the bee. I wondered if the swelling would “grab on” to her stinger. Of course, it felt like I’d been stung on top of the foot. That hurts.
She would pause and tug and rub with her feet, and then run some more. She made at least three dozen revolutions around her stinger. I couldn’t believe I was watching a bee unscrew herself from the top of my foot.
Did I mention the camera batteries were dead?
Near the end I could see her whole stinger, about 2mm, and it looked like the tip of it was barely attached to my skin – the weight of the bee was tugging on the very surface layer of my skin. She made a couple more turns, came loose! – and promptly fell back down into my shoe.
The whole extrication took somewhere around two minutes.
I waited, and she came walking back out, climbing my foot. I tried to pick her up, she tried to fly and she fell in the grass. She was all flustered, behaving weirdly drunk. Maybe she was simply dizzy. After a few more attempts to pick her up and dropping her, I got her to the hive and deposited her on the doorstep. Totally fine.
Then I went home to lie down. I get stung on my feet at least once a year. This time I got all the same hot, swelling, feeling like a big bruise symptoms, but I did fancy that this time, I got a smaller dose of venom.
When one gets stung on the hand, flinching or the reflexual flick is enough to throw the bee and rip the stinger sac out of her body. The sac speared into your skin by the stinger then autonomically pumps more venom in, pulsing like a disembodied heart. I feel like this time, I only got the one hit when she first stung me.
The snakes love the greenhouse, predictably. It’s very common for me to grab some feedsacks or canvas off the pile of miscellany and reveal a curled up snake, staring at me.
This one was busy shedding its skin before being uncovered.
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!
It’s been a hard summer, and my blog posting habits have suffered. I have a big backlog of photos I intended to post and chick pics too cute not to, plus an unexpected opportunity to do some catch up posting, so…here comes a series of posts that should have gone up earlier in the summer!
This is my favorite way (pretty much, only way) to prepare eggplant.
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”.
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!
Shockingly early! It was quite light, and didn’t do much damage. But most definitely, indubitably, frost!
This is going to totally throw off my planting schedule if first frost is mid September!
I’m glad I stuck the guineas in with their surrogate last night – they would have been cold!
The guineas are growing like weeds.
I’ve put them in the greenhouse to run wild, since they outgrew the chickery in about a week.
They let me know they were ready to move up in the world by escaping from the chickery. How they did so was and remains a complete mystery, because the chickery is covered with a piece of nylon bird mesh tacked down on the four corners.
First, there was one bird walking around on the outside. Then there was two. Three. Then there were three perching on the top edge, all on the wrong side of the mesh, mesh still intact. Is mystery! Like Houdini.
Since this willy-nilly mystery escape is not safe for them – they do not seem as adept at getting back in, and they could get in trouble not being able to reach water or food.
So I set them free in the greenhouse. 864 square feet to play Wild Jungle Fowl in. When I first released them they were so funny, running with their necks stuck out, all of them chirping excitedly BurBURburBURburBURburBUR!
They travel in a dense little pack, like a school of fish, always tightly together.
They can fly too! They have big old wings already, and have taken confident flight off of my hand.
At night, I’ve been stowing them in with the broody hen I tried and failed to adopt them to. She’s boxed up, on her eggs, and at night I bring the guineas, drop them in the box and they snuggle up around her, or hide in the corner of her box under her butt.
Surrogate mom is surprisingly tolerant. The first couple days she growled at the evening introduction, but in a couple days, it turned to a (resigned?) greeting purr. The chicks would cheep anxiously about the trip in the box, she’d purr reassuringly, and in less than 20 seconds, silence had fallen.
In the morning she’s ready to get rid of them though. They are full of beans and sprint around the box shrieking, running laps that run right over her back. They perch on her back too, sometimes two at a time. She seems pleased to see them go then. She never moves off her eggs.
I was plucking birds out from her broody box one morning and one chick ran to her, thrust his head (only his head) under her wing, and froze. Can’t see me!
Since moving them into the greenhouse from the chickery, the chicks are harder to find at night.
The greenhouse is a multilevel jungle of tomatoes creeping across the top, and squashes growing in all directions. At night, they find a big squash leaf on the floor and all pile up under it, totally hidden.
Unlike chickens, they find a new place to sleep every night, so I have to poke around looking under the big umbrella leaves.
It’s like having ghosts in the greenhouse. When we go in there we might see them at work, but when they see us they all dart away. One was so busy picking bugs off the underside of a leaf it didn’t see the others depart and I got right up to it. EEEEEP! It shrieked and raced away.
If you stay in there longer, you’ll see them slowly work their way through a perimeter sweep, or hopping up to reach the kale leaves.
You’ll hear them cheeping around, but turn around and you might see a shadow scuttle by behind the tomatoes. They are so funny! Always in a little huddle. SO FAST! They streak around, their bodies stable and little orange legs ticking like a chihuahua, necks long and bright orange beaks stuck out.
When they get separated from the pack, even a little distance, they make a sound like a very small car alarm, and the pack shouts back a softer sound, until they’re reunited. I experimented with this. I was trying to teach them to go in the broody box by themselves at night, so I cut a door in it. Poked them all out through the door in the morning.
In the evening, but before it was dark enough for them to have settled down completely, I started to encourage them towards the box, or at least that end of the greenhouse. I grabbed a couple and put them in the box (happy cheeping). The rest did the car alarm sound, then stopped to listen. Cozy, subdued response cheeps. The outside chicks listened to where the others were, then set off at a run, and ran right past the box with the door in it.
Then they stopped, shrieked, listened, and sure they knew now where the others were, ran back the other direction, right past the door in the box. I caught a couple more and put them in the box (more happy cheeping). They go right to sleep cuddled up to the big cozy hen.
The back and forth car alarming, listening, and running past the box continued. They never got it. I had to catch each one and put them in the box. They didn’t figure out the door from the inside either. Although they failed this IQ test, in other ways they seem very clever. They are extremely difficult to catch.
HW has taken to calling them the Africans. To distinguish them from all the other chicks floating around. The teenagers, the smaller chicks, the new chicks, and the Africans. There’re several series running around right now.
In the morning they have a favorite spot on the Southeast corner of the greenhouse, and to get there they have to climb up the hay bales and the squash vines climbing up them, and they perch on the vines or cuddle up in a pile in the first sunbeam on top of the hay. They’re up there, at eye level, when you first come in the door, relaxed in their fort and returning the gaze.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have a handicapped chicken. I’ve no idea what’s wrong with her, but her right leg doesn’t support her weight. She hops and tries to step on her right leg but it collapses under her. I’ve grabbed her for inspection, and she happily hangs out in the football hold while I inspect her leg. I’ve gone all over her foot for slivers, and massaged all up her leg, but she doesn’t ever flinch, just sternly watches me palpating her stuck-out leg.
The first couple days she stayed in or right next to the coop, and then she roamed a little farther, but not all the way to our house like the flock goes every day. She seems to not want to get too far from the coop. I’ve had to put bowls of water in the woods in her range. It’s tricky to leave food out where she will find it before all the other chickens do.
She doesn’t seem to be in any pain, but she’s obviously limited and subdued. She’s got that injured animal wariness, hiding herself in the brush. It’s a mystery what is going on for her if there’s nothing she winces at, but she can’t walk on it.
I had another chicken die. No known cause, but she was an old chicken, one of the original set. I was getting eggs out of the coop and she was in there, and she didn’t skedaddle indignantly like they usually do. I moved her aside, and she settled down like she was going to rest a bit more.
I checked on her a little later and she was still there. I stroked her head and back (a dead giveaway that she wasn’t feeling well). Her upside down lids closed and she fell asleep while I pet her.
I checked on her in an hour and she had tucked her head under her wing and died:(
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.
I come around the corner and find the rooster indulging. He’s doesn’t usually get caught in the bath.
He just looked at me, and declined to lift his Henry VIII body out of his dust bowl.
The bees are growing. I’ve added two supers, so now they have a proper bee apartment highrise. I need a stool now in order to see in the top when I take the lid off. I don’t know what I’ll do if I have to give them another, and if they fill it with honey. I’m going to need a ladder.
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.
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.
I’m so excited! I’ve got a shipment of little guinea chicks!
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. Inside the box. Seven little striped brown heads – they look nothing like they will when they grow up.I tore open the box and placed it in the chickery to let them come out on their own time.A half hour later.
There they are, all settled down.
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 againAn hour later.
All of them hiding behind the box!
And then, a bit later, busy foraging like normal chicks:
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I must draw your attention to how awesome this photo is – I caught the second bee in flight! out of the flower, pollened legs glowing in the sun and wings in motion – something I completely couldn’t ever do on purpose.
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.
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.
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.
This hen was in the playpen for minutes before she dug through the chip layer and started writhing around, spraying dirt all over her chicks, who huddled in the corner. You know how long it’s been since I had a shower?!
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. In 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.
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.
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. Scratching, drinking. The beak sweep, the beak wipe.
And of course, the dust bathing.
She can see the world out there through the screen door.
After a few days in the playpen, then they all go in the chickery.
Whoohoo! Grass! This is a frabjous day.
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.
This hen thinks I’ve slept in too long, and it’s high time that they get let outside.
Eventually, after a week, two, or more, or single parenting, the family will be put into Silkieland with the main flock. 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.
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.
The only chick and mother in the chick cycle rotation. Upgrade to the chickery.
I go to put them out in the morning, and she’s laid an egg! This hen is so ready for more chicks.