Tag Archives: nature

The Chicken Yard Door

Almost everything seems to love a good chicken dinner. foghorn-leghorn-285

I’m a Chicken Hawk and you’re a chicken!

Most of my ‘chicken time’ I’m working on protecting my hens. I mean, I wake up thinking about them. Are they OK? Did they make it through the night? What new situation or predator do I have to contend with today????

A lengthy conversation with my husband about moving the door to the chicken yard into a new place, blew up into a weeks worth of investigating door construction, wire purchases, and door locking systems… Good God. What Have I Done? Sigh…

Oh wait! Let me tell you how damn long it took me to make him understand how important it was to have a secure, non-saggy door for a chicken yard. He never did understand this, until we lost a hen or five to predators. The saggy door, which he thought was sufficient to keep in hens, was not a deterrent for dogs, coons, opossum, owls or hawks.

Here we are, finally 7 years down the road from Day One, of building the chicken yard and coop. He gets it. He finally gets it. I don’t care how much investigating we have to do. I’m just thankful he is finally understanding, that you MUST have a very secure doorway to a chicken yard. You must have good strong wire. Nothing flimsy is going to work. Mainly, because it seems most things like to eat chicken…  I won’t even get into the fact that most things can dig under any door, no matter how sturdy. I sunk blocks in a trench under the door. Not noticeable, but present!

This is my old door. A hazard to any chicken alive living inside. It’s not a good shot, but the end of the door is where they chain-link ends up top.  It needed to have had a frame fitted with no gaps. OK, so that did not happen. Rookie chicken raising mistake…

Every neighborhood Raccoon and Opossum found a way inside. Please don’t lecture me about how Opossum do not eat chicken. They do. I’ve saved three of my hens this last month alone. When they can’t scrounge up food, they eat whatever they can grab. That includes a hen that might not be on her A-Game. Maybe she’s older and does not run as fast. Hens do not see well at night. They really don’t know all of what’s going on around them. By the time they have been grabbed it’s too late.

old-door

Here is the lovely framework for the new door to slip into, once the cement holding in the posts is cured.  Psst… Yes, I said cement.  I think, he is tired of losing hens to animals also. He has to bury them. I cry.. Yeah, none of that sounds fun.

frame

You will be getting updates on the saga of The Chicken Yard Door.

Here’s a picture of Maggie. Just because. She’s a lovely, noisy Black Australorp hen.

maggie

The Chicken Mom

Dyslexic Roosters

When I walk out the door in the morning, I am assaulted with the neighborhood roosters and their loud greetings of the new day. Our neighborhood is more or less rural-suburbia, with folks having one or two acre lots. On those lots they can have chickens or horses or cows, and god knows what else…  I guess most of my neighbors have chickens and choose to keep roosters. I on the other hand, I choose to not have roosters. They are beautiful, I admire them, and that’s where the attraction stops; and after concerned painstaking effort on my part to choose chicks which were hopefully female, I ended up with FIVE beautiful Roosters and Nine hens. I was awaken one morning with a horrific squalling, squealing, and hooting weirdness coming from the direction of the chicken yard. Stumbling to the door I peered outside in that general area and proudly attempting to crow was one of the new pullets. You could hear him trying to form a crow but the noise was a pitiful example of crowing. Continue this progressive morning scenario for two weeks: The family who lives the next road over must have several roosters, and I watch the little gray one I have listen closely as they one after the other, crow with a vengeance. Then he begins to attempt a mimic of their crowing. Except his crow was totally backwards… I was hoping and praying this was just an overly testosterone laden female crowing (they occasionally will attempt to mimic). The days following however, proved me wrong. Dayam!  The little Gray Roo pullet who is attempting to crow is a Blue Ameraucana (Not really blue). Here’s a photo of a Blue Pullet.

backyardchickens
http://www.backyardchickens.com / Without their help, I’d never have gotten through my first set of babies. Wonderful site! I highly recommend it.

Most chickens when they crow make a Urt Urt Urt Urrrrrr sound. This little dude hit notes nothing like that. I busted out laughing… Ouuuuu-Urrrrr-Urt-Urt-Urttttt!  Ouuuuu- Urrrrr-Urt-Urt-Urt!  I could see him with a face which said, “No that’s not quite right”!  He kept practicing and practicing, his face contorted with the effort. He even bent his neck sideways trying to squeeze the vocalizations just right.  This kept up for about two weeks. Then suddenly another one popped out with a tentative crow. Oh God…. More Roosters! That week and the week that followed I counted a total of FIVE Roosters! They were promptly packed up and driven back to the breeder who guaranteed that they would be hens. If I ended up with any Roos’ he’d take them back. He was good to his word, but he was really surprised that his method of sexing them had failed so badly. I told him that the Blue Ameraucana crowed backwards.  He figured they just had baby crows and had not quite got the crowing down yet. Then as I stood there talking to him, the Blue let out a healthy, Ouuuuu-Urrrrr-Urt-Urt-Urt! The man turned quickly at watched him let out another Dyslexic Crow and he laughed saying, “Well I’ll be Dang” The little guy does crow backwards!”. Skip (the chicken guy), ended up showing him with the 4H kids.  I wonder how a Dyslexic Rooster fared out with the 4H judging? The Chicken Mama

Maintenance in the Chicken Yard

Nothing gets done automatically in a chicken yard. Oh they talk about automatic waterers, and feeders, but they still need to be washed out and kept clean. Then the shavings under the roost, collect all the evenings droppings. If you don’t clean that frequently, it just gets layers upon layer of YUCK. I could just sprinkle some scratch feed down in the general area and let the girls bury it with their digging. That would just be temporarily effective, and have to be dealt with eventually.  Maybe I’m just a neat freak and need the work out. Either way I usually clean it once a week. On the off days, I just rake some clean shavings over the droppings. They soak up any of the smelly stuff. Wed is usually the Chicken Yard day.

I do talk a lot about Chicken Poop. That sort of makes me laugh, because my husband calls me a (should I say it?) “shit manager”. He means it in the most complimentary way. When things go awry here, I can usually make the best of it and find a way to keep going in some form or fashion.  I’m also good at pluming. When the sewer goes crazy, it’s me who rods out lines. I learned that while he worked his weird swing shifts at the Paper Mill. It seemed most stuff broke while he was gone and at night. It was not really unheard of to see me outside at midnight working on something. Like the year the pump lines froze in 11 degree temperatures. I’m outside with a blow dryer, fuzzy slippers and a house coat, coat and head muff.

He is more than willing to help and has taken share of the drama and broken stuff here. He does more than any man should have too. So, I am giving him credit for all of the good he does, trust me. I just fill in when he’s not home. Now, that he’s retired, he’s here a lot more.

Ah! Back to chickens…  (sorry).

Yesterday was work in the Chicken yard day. As you may be able to guess. Normally I write about my experiences, day-to-day. Yesterday found me winterizing the coop. It has a lot of protection, so it’s not been a very big concern for me that they would get too cold. I’m in Florida, that’s not really a hard issue, most of the time.  This year has been so mild, and it has felt more like Fall. I don’t know what’s up with that, but I’ll take it!

My winterizing consist of putting up corrugated panels against the chicken coops chain link walls. The girls, are in a dog proof 10×10, roofed, box with a dog proof door. The main concern for me is the wind. It can be very windy here. I don’t know why, for that situation either. We are on the Northeast coast of Florida  and it just has weird weather. Today you are walking in Bermuda shorts and tomorrow you will have on blizzard gear.

It is January and the winters we have are worse in Jan., and Feb.. Windy and Cold. However, none of that has reared its ugly head yet. I just wanted to be ready, in case…

Thankfully, the chicken coop already had up two sides and the third side is blocked with another room, where they girls eat, protected from the wet and wind. I needed to put up cleaned panels on two walls. Then I needed to rake the whole pen area. That’s 50 feet long and about 20 feet wide. After that,  haul out the poop and get in clean shavings.

In the middle of all this working, I stopped and thought, Why in the world I was having fun? This is a lot of work. Then I just shrugged it off and kept cleaning. I must just enjoy the chickens. Actually, I do. I go out there cleaning and forget worries. I call it my church. Unless I ask for help, most just don’t bug me out there.

Chickens are a lot of work, but they are worth every bit of it if you like them. People spend thousands on their pets every year. Well, I just spend thousands of  hours with my chickens.

Alpha Chicken

Ouch&Throwing in the Towel

For weeks and weeks I’ve stumbled over the words and just decided to not say a word about the death of my little chicken love. I’m not sure how really to talk about it without bawling my eyes out. I’ve just really just tried to look at this from an outsider view of events which might happen to others…  An Onlooker I shall become, so I can talk and therapeutically exercise my heart-break.   It may work. We shall see.

No pet has ever make me laugh like Lucy (OK, I need to practice the “Onlooker” partition and disassociate myself for a bit) (I just rolled my eyes – Oh god). She was a near perfect chicken. She may have looked like a normal Buff Orpington, but from the start I knew she was something AMAZING! She proved to be just that and more.

Lucy-Morgan

Most chickens are just Chickens. Lucy was way above “Chicken” status. She’d reached favored pet, Best friend, and gave the bestest chicken hugs. Yes, I said, “bestest”. What else can you call it when a chicken sits on your lap nuzzles you close, and just puts her head on your shoulder and shuts her eyes? Yep, Bestest!

She followed me like a dog, gently pecked the beggar weeds off my shoes, and made little cooing sounds which told me she had discovered the bread in my pocket. If I was blue, Lucy was right there to remind me, ‘It’s going to be alright’.

There was a small wreck outside my house and in the rush to make sure all’s well out there, I forgot to close the gate all the way. A random dog also canvassed the scene outside the house, and found the open gate. Lucy and the other girls were out free ranging the acre, being chickens. The dog did what a dog might be prone to do in such a case; chase chickens. This he did and Lucy was dead before I could get him out of the yard. So, I feel a double whammy.  I leave the gate open, and Lucy is Dead. Of course I feel to blame.

I do know that chickens don’t live forever. I think 8 years is considered a nice long life. In trying to be philosophic here, but the sting is still burning of her being gone. I wasn’t ready to let her go.

Another stupid dog got Victoria, who I was able to save. Lucy she isn’t, but she’s a lovely, sweetheart of a hen who may just have potential… God knows, she sure doesn’t lay for crap! So, I’ll just love her to bits.

“I LOVE LUCY”  Thank you little darlin…

Tropical Storm Debbie

It’s odd that we have had two back to back storms here….  I have officially quit praying for rain for Florida; now onto Colorado, but that’s another story.

I took some of the funniest video of my silly girls playing in the water as it gathered in the lower half of the chicken enclosure, which is linked at the bottom of this page.

The coop is 50 ft long and 20 ft wide. It was just hilarious watching them explore the storm water alone. I went out to see what in the world could be so interesting in the pen, I saw a foot of standing water on the low half of the pen! Oh my…. Now when it quits raining enough for my camera…

We had to have had some significant rain to fill that low water table up again. Trust me, we did have significant rain. It rained for 5 solid says with only a small break on June 25th for my granddaughters birthday party. The heavens opened back up and blesses us with more; after everyone went home. Then it rained for 2 more days.

My prayer was that we would get enough rain to bring the natural water table back up. I could feel my trees aching for water. I know that sounds silly, but I could feel it. They needed some real rain, and not the afternoon’s occasional drizzle. Some real Honest Too Goodness RAIN! – OK God! So it didn’t have to do all that catching up in one week. Remind me to end prayers with a small footnote for now on, eh?

Anyhow, when I went into the chicken yard to check out the damage from 20 hours of torrential rain (only one day’s worth), I saw they were goofing off in the water below the halfway mark in the area. Some of them were chest deep in the water. I have no idea if other people’s chickens do this! Maybe mine are just a weird, warped extension of myself… I love water. They love water ( it appears).

Finally the rain stopped. Camera in hand I can see the water has receded some. When I walked down into that area to check it out the girls were right behind me. I mean 28 intense little faces all following me there. I felt like the Pied Piper of Chickens! Then most of them ventured into the water even more. It was like “OK, Mom is here, it’s alright to play now”.

I wish I’d been able to get photos earlier but the rain would not stop and I didn’t want to drown my camera. The rain-soaked in the ground quickly.

Goodness! Have I mentioned how horrible dirt with wet chicken poop and chicken feed smells? Ick…. Good thing I have had years of practice smelling disgusting things (diapers for one).

Here’s the video. Enjoy! 🙂    (Its a Youtube video)  http://youtu.be/tt1Cxat3iOM