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Farina on Cupola

Farina on Cupola

This is that last we saw of our Peacock, Farina. He was one of two males that we have had for a little over 3 years. Two weeks ago we had a group of friends over to the farm, and had opened the door to the PeaPod so that our friends could see the birds.

PeaPod

PeaPod

Farina must have been spooked, seeing strangers standing in the doorway, and he flew out the open door, landing on top of the barn cupola. I hoped that he would come back to the roost in the evening, so we shut Buckwheat in the aviary, and opened the doors to the house, turned on the lights and put a bowl of food in the doorway. We sat out there for hours waiting for him to fly into the house, but when it got dark, we went up to the house. Next morning we scoured the entire property for him, but he had disappeared.

We were broken hearted to lose him, but the worst was seeing how dejected Buckwheat was to have lost his friend. He called out several times the next morning, but Farina never returned. Unfortunately, the weather took a turn for the worse, and we had several inches of snow and record cold temps for the next week. I doubt that a peacock could survive in those conditions without shelter.

We felt so bad for Buckwheat that we bought him a girlfriend. He had never known anything but male companionship, so we weren’t sure how he would react to a new hen. But it was love at first sight. We’ve named her Darla.

Buckwheat accepts Darla

Buckwheat accepts Darla

By morning, he was singing love songs and showing off his tail. He has been very gentle toward her. Notice the head down posture. I can only surmise, as I don’t speak peacock, that he is letting her know he is not going to challenge her. Smart Bird!

Could be we’ll get some eggs come spring.

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There is no better way to herald in the Christmas Season than to go to the local Christmas Parade. Oh, except for, maybe, walking in the parade.

I love a small town parade. We have talked for years about walking in our town’s parade, but with our weekends being occupied with our llama trekking business, we were never available. But this year we made the time and we did it. What a great time.

Parade Lineup

Parade Lineup

We gathered up 6 friends to walk 6 of our llamas. We hung sleigh bells around their necks and put antlers on their heads. (The llamas , that is).

Reindeer antlers

Reindeer antlers

The crowd loved seeing the llamas, especially the kids. They would bunch up right in the middle of the street to pet the llamas. Our llama, Silver, seemed to be the most approachable target.

Hi Ho Silver

Hi Ho Silver

Even the adults were Ga Ga.

At one point, our littlest llama, Pete, was mobbed by the children for a couple of minutes, holding up the parade behind him.

Pete Greets

Pete Greets

Of course the rest of the herd disappeared down the street. When Pete tired of the adulation and realized he had been left behind, he dashed down the street to catch up, dragging his handler behind.

The crowd loved seeing the llamas, but it was evident that many didn’t know what the heck they were. We heard several “Look, it’s camels”; and from one sweet child, “it’s fuzzy reindeer”. Of course there was a lot of the usual mistaken identity, “Look, they’re alcapas.”

But oddly enough, these wooly, four legged mammals, are sometimes mistaken for emu; even by the nurses’ assistant that stopped by to enquire at the end of the parade route.

But the most important member of the group was the elf that brought up the rear.

Pooper Scooper Elf

Pooper Scooper Elf

Luckily I didn’t need to scoop any poop along the way, but I did hear my share of sideline remarks, to include, “She’s sure got a shi**y job”.

But back at the trailer, a job well done, Pete said, “Thank goodness that’s over, can I go home now”.

Home again, Home again, Please?

Home again, Home again, Please?

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Bayley the Goldendoodle turned 1 year old over the weekend. A couple of our best friends were staying the weekend, so we decided to throw a party.

This is an interesting photo, as the short dog on the right looks like a long haired basset hound. She is Mayzie, the Bearded Collie. She actually sits about as tall as Bayley, but she is trying (and fairly successfully) to make herself disappear.

Bayley, on the other hand, thinks it is all great fun. Well, she thinks EVERYTHING is great fun.

Here are the doggie birthday cakes. They are made of a slice of FreshPet Refrigerated Dog Food and iced with mashed potatoes.

Yum Yum Eat ‘Em up. (This reference is probably lost on most all of you born after 1960. It was from a hilarious episode of The Little Rascals in which the Wild Man of Borneo terrorized all the kids by chasing them around and chanting the one phrase that he knew how to say. He actually was looking for candy which he loved, but the kids thought he wanted to eat them.)

The “cakes” soon made their way to the floor where the “icing” was smeared all over the place.

I’m not quite sure what Bayley thought of the tiara. The expression looks a bit disdainful, doesn’t it?

Maybe this sums up what she truly thought of it all.

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Chicks Arrival

After the July Bear attack that diminished our little flock of 4 chickens by two, we decided to get some replacement chicks. I found a hatchery that would mail as few as three chicks so I ordered three Golden Comet chicks, the same hybrid breed that we currently have. They arrived on August 7 as day old chicks.

After brooding them for 3 weeks in our bathroom…..

Rubbermaid Brooder

we happily moved them to more spacious quarters in the garage.

The Flying Saucer

They are now 10 weeks old and nearly full grown. They have outgrown the spaceship and are ready to move out to the outdoor coop.

Chalet Poulet

We have raised up three sets of chicks now, but we have never tried to integrate new chickens into an existing flock. It can be a tricky thing to do. It is very stressful for both humans and birds alike and can even be brutal. They call it the pecking order for a reason. We followed some common advice and divided the coop in half with chicken wire.

The Road Warrior installs a divider

I had to crawl in the run to fit the bottom board. I was soon accompanied by the two hens quite curious about the new occupant.

Bock, bock, bock, bock, BaGawk!!

The coop is divided both on top and bottom. We plan to keep the birds separated for about three weeks and by then we hope that they will be used to each other and can live together peaceably.

A House Divided

With the two older hens now safely ensconced in their half of the coop, they were clearly not pleased with the new interior design.

Yikes! Matha Stewart’s been here!

We introduced the 3 new chicks into the upper roost first….

These chicks are “chicken”

But after an hour, they were still reluctant to venture down into the brave new world.

Ever wonder where the pejorative term “chicken” came from?

Finally I gave them a nudge and pushed them down the stairs. The original hens were now REALLY incensed about this new living arrangement. You know the expression “mad as a wet hen?” Well here is what one sounds like.

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Have you ever wondered when watching America’s Funniest Videos, how it is that someone has a camera ready and running to capture all that unlikely footage? Whenever anything filmworthy happens around here, there is no camera anywhere nearby, much less on and recording when the award winning action is going on.

Two cases in point:
Last week, I headed down to the barn for the morning llama feeding and chores. My two dogs, Bayley the Goldendoodle, and Mayzie the Bearded Collie always accompany me for a romp down the road and hangout in the pasture as I do my farm duties. Bayley is still a puppy, a nine month old cross between two hunting breeds, the Golden Retriever and a Standard Poodle. She has been enrolled in continuing education since the age of 10 weeks, and she has gotten much better about minding me on some things, but when she catches sight or the scent of a wild animal, the prey drive kicks in and a cannon would not deter her from the chase.

On this particular morning, as soon as I opened the gate to the pasture, Bayley shot off toward the back fence. There I saw two does grazing inside the pasture. When they saw Bayley barreling in their direction, one of the deer immediately jumped the back fence and was gone. The other deer started running along the length of the back fence in the direction of the corner post. Bayley was in hot pursuit.

Often seen view of deer grazing in pasture


Now mind you, Bayley gets a great thrill from the chase, but wouldn’t know what to do if she caught something. The most amazing thing happened. I watched as the deer sped toward the side fence line expecting her to fly over, but instead, she ran headlong straight into the fence. BONK… She hit the rail head first and was knocked flat on her side.

Bayley stood back in astonishment. She didn’t know what to do. She just wanted the deer to run, and it was down for the count. Within a few seconds, the deer recovered its senses and stood up totally befuddled. She knew she needed to escape, but Bayley had her blocked in. She made a mad dash, bolting right over Bayley and ran for all she was worth toward the opposite end of the pasture. Bayley loped along behind her until the doe jumped the far fence and was gone.

Now wouldn’t you like to have gotten that on film?

The second case in point: The dogs have a favorite outside toy; a Jolly Ball on a rope. This is an 8 inch rubber ball attached to a length of rope. Bayley and Mayzie love to play tug of war with it. My husband, who will henceforth be referred to as Road Warrior (he commutes 66 miles each way on I-66 to DC) took the dogs out for their evening constitutional. Bayley grabbed the ball by the rope and started running around with it swinging her head from side to side, causing the ball to swing in an ever widening arc. The ball started whacking her on the side of the head. She’d swing her head left, and whack, the ball would hit her in the head; she’d swing her head right, and whack, the ball would hit her on the right side of her head. She did this for 8 or 10 times, and finally the ball got enough momentum that it hit her in the head hard enough to knock her down. Bamm! Flat on her side. It took a couple of seconds for her to gather her wits and get up, grab the ball and start running with it again.

Now, not only would I have loved to get this on video, I would love to have seen it with my own eyes. As it is, when I think about it, I see a video playing in my mind’s eye, and it makes me laugh. Too bad I can’t share this with the world.

(A re-creation)


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Barn Frog

Most of you are familiar with the Barn Cat. It helps rid the barn of mice and rats. We have one of those. But we are also extremely fortunate to have a barn frog to protect us from those vicious crickets. Looks like he’s been very effective.

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Having a bear wreck our chicken coop a few days ago, reminded me of a funny bear story that happened several years ago. This was right after we dug our pond and stocked it with fish. When we bought the fish it was a virgin pond. Well that’s not quite true, cause about a million frogs had sex down there. A billion eggs hatched into tadpoles. Now it’s a cacophony of frog song in the evening, everything from the deep bruppppp of the bullfrog, to the high ddrrtttttt of the tree frogs. Anyway, there was nothing for the fish to eat, so we installed an automatic fish feeder.

I did a lot of research online to find this thing. Now there are a lot of automatic deer feeders. These are for the intrepid hunters that set one of these up in the woods to train the deer to come every day to feed. Then they sit in a tree and blow Bambi away. These could work as a fish feeder, but they are designed to throw the feed in a 360 degree pattern. We were mounting it to the front of the dock and didn’t want the food spraying on the wood, but I finally found one that had been designed just as a fish feeder and had a directional sprayer. It wasn’t cheap, but was compact and not too ugly. The food container was made of a heavy grade plastic, and the lid just slipped on the top. No positive lock. So the first modification was to install spring lock screen door latches on each side of the lid to keep raccoons, etc. from opening it. We knew it would never withstand an onslaught from a bear, but hoped we would not have to prove it. It worked great for a couple of months. It had a solar eye that sensed the time of day and dispensed food an hour after dawn and an hour before sunset. Then one day……

The plastic container was mangled. The motor mechanism was metal and unharmed. So we started thinking about food boxes that would be bear proof that we could attach the motor to. While pondering on this, we stopped by the co-op, and saw that they had one of the deer feeders for sale. This one was a simple 6 gallon metal bucket with a metal lid that crimps down, just like a big paint bucket. This one was a stylish camo design, to boot. We examined the lid and decided that there was no way the bear could pry the lid off short of carrying his own screwdriver. So we bought it.

Next came the second of many modifications in the creation of a bear proof feeder. Tim mounted it on the original 4×4 post (somewhat chewed), but since this was a deer feeder, it sprayed food in a complete circle. Tim devised a deflector by attaching a curved piece of plastic to keep it from spraying on the dock (actually half of a Clorox bottle). The next day the bear came back. He couldn’t open the pail, so he chewed the post some more, and pulled the deflector off. It was floating on the pond. Tim retrieved the deflector and put it back on. This scene repeated itself for several more days. The post getting smaller and smaller, and the deflector eventually getting lost. Meanwhile, we hit on the idea of an ammo box to hold the food.

Bear Proof Fish Feeder with Bonus Attack Owl

Modification 3. Tim cut a hole in the bottom of the ammo box, mounted the original directional motor, installed a slide in the box to direct the feed into the shute, drilled holes in the side to mount to the 4 x 4 post, speaking of which, was now only about a 3 x 2. So mod 4, Tim sent me to the metal salvage yard where I found a 3 inch diameter iron pipe. He mounted it with U shaped brackets to the dock and then to the ammo box. Perfect. Solid. No way a bear is getting into this. So we sat back and waited. Next morning we’re standing in the kitchen looking down at the pond, and lo and behold, there is the bear standing on the dock examining the new puzzle box. He’s just a young guy, maybe 2 years old. I’m watching him through the binoculars, and Tim is watching through the 10 inch telephoto lens on the camera snapping pictures.

The bear seemed to be very gentle while we were watching him. He’d put his paw into the slot to try to retrieve any pellets that may be sitting in there. But after about 5 minutes, he moseyed on. Next morning, however, we noticed that the bear had rotated the feeder on the pole so that the dispensing shute was directed right onto the dock. Pretty clever bear. Tim had to use all of his body weight to shift the feeder back around. Every morning, we would find it in the same position. So we had to put our heads together to find a fix for this new problem. It obviously takes 2 of our brains to outsmart “the av-er-age bear”.

Mod 5. Tim drilled a hole through the iron post and into the ammo box and inserted a huge bolt. Eureka-The invention of a bear proof fish feeder!! The bear was never able to raid the food box again, but he apparently got frustrated over the situation, and on 3 occasions, tossed our metal benches into the pond in an act of revenge.

The same day we photographed him down on the dock, he paid his first visit to our chickens. He climbed the fence into the back yard where we keep the coop. He wasn’t interested in the chickens, thank goodness, but he wanted the food that we had stored in a large Rubbermaid deck box where we keep the chicken supplies. Again, we had used one of our screen door latches to keep the lid closed, and he couldn’t get it open, so he rolled the box until the hinges popped open. He couldn’t get the lid off of the smaller food box, so he just took it with him.

We then installed an electric wire along the top of the fence to keep him from climbing over.

Various fish feeders and modifications —cost $275
1 Rubbermaid storage box and 50 lbs of chicken feed —-cost $50
Electric wire installed around top of back yard fence —-cost $195
Mental image of bear’s expression when he puts his paws on the hot wire —-priceless

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Holy Cow! Not again! For the 5th time in as many years, a bear destroyed our chicken coop, but for the first time, he actually ate two of our chickens. Our coop sits right under our bedroom window, and as these raids usually happen in the middle of the night, we have heard the rending of wood and wire and have been able to scare off the bear before he killed any of our hens. Once a couple of years ago, he actually got his teeth into one and ripped a flap of skin off under her wing, but we treated the wound with antibiotics and she recovered good as new.

Friday, we were not so fortunate. This attack occurred in the middle of the afternoon. I just happened to go downstairs and heard the chickens clucking louder than usual and went to look out the window that looks out onto the coop. I knew immediately when I saw two chickens staring in at me on the other side of the glass that things were amiss. A quick glance to the coop proved that it had been ripped open and knocked over.

A further glance beyond the destroyed coop revealed the culprit, a black bear standing on the outside of the gate. I ran out the front door yelling at him to scat. Disgruntled, he slowly ambled off up the slope and disappeared into the woods. Assessing the damage, I woefully discovered that I only had two of my four precious hens. All that remained of the other two was a small fluff of feathers.


I know that most people don’t credit chickens with a lot of smarts, and I agree that they won’t score high on an IQ test, but they do have more intelligence than most give them credit for. These two survivors somehow knew that we lived on the other side of that glass window, and they were doing their darnedest to get my attention calling “HELP, HELP, HELP” at the top of their little chicken voices.

I looked helplessly at their little home, the damage way beyond my means to repair. So I called DH to see if he could home early to do a coop reno. It would be a couple of hours before he could get home, so to protect the girls in the meantime, I carried them to the garage, and placed them in the dogs’ exercise pen.

Repairs took a little over four hours and took us well into dark. We finished up by flashlight about 10:00 at night and tucked the hens in for the evening. After the first bear attack five years ago, we installed an electric wire around the perimeter of the backyard fence. It apparently does deter the bears from coming in, because in every instance that a bear has climbed the fence, we’ve discovered that the electric fence was down. And sure enough, during a recent electrical storm, the GFI on the outlet had been popped and the fence off. I’m naturally worried that now that he has the taste for chicken, the bear will come back for more. I find that I am checking on the chickens every hour on the hour. So far, so good.

I wonder if our two remaining chickens are lonely and miss their sisters. I guess it’s time to think about getting some new chicks.

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