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Posts Tagged ‘chickens’

OK, what’s wrong with this picture?

Brrrr

What’s wrong is that we spent several hundred dollars and two days over the summer constructing a shelter for Farina, and he refuses to use it.

Farina's shelter

Wouldn’t you like to sit on this perch and stay dry, and ice-free?

Well, you can’t reason with a peacock. They have a “pea” brain after all.

Farina insists on sleeping on the peak of our roof overlooking his beloved chickens.

Don't hide

I think there is an identity crisis going on here.

We’ve been feeding Farina under the shelter twice a day for several months. He’ll make a trip down the hill to the “peapod” morning and evening and eat his dinner, then head back to the house to sit with the hens. He’d rather spend time with the chickens than with the peacock pair, Buckwheat and Darla, that live in the aviary.

peapod

Well, like they say, “You can lead a horse to water……..”

Farina on rocking chair

 

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For those of you that have been following the story of my vagabond peacock, you know that one of my males, Farina, flew the coop in January, was given up for dead, replaced with a peahen, Darla, and then miraculously returned after a 6 month winter wonderland adventure.

But this story is not about Farina, but about a wooden egg that I placed in a nest box that we fashioned for Darla.

Darla and Buckwheat

She is our first peahen and we were told by the breeder, that she would not be a year old until this summer, and it was rare that one year olds produced any eggs. But we wanted to be prepared just in case.

So we made this nest box and placed it in the corner of the ‘pea pod’ where we had seen her resting. And to give her a clue that this was her nest, I placed a wooden egg in it.

nest box

She liked the box, and snuggled up in it all winter. Every day that I would go in the ‘pea pod’ I would see the wooden egg right where I had put it. Last week, I glanced at the box, and the egg was not there. I thought to myself that it had probably gotten buried in the straw, and I would look for it later.

When I started to clean the aviary, I noticed the egg was under the perch.

egg under perch

That really threw me for a loop. How it the world did it get there. The peas couldn’t pick it up in their beaks. I didn’t think a mouse could get it out of the nest box and roll it outside. Road Warrior thought that one of the birds had kicked it out of the nest. But to what purpose? Is Darla like the “Princess and the Pea”, (no pun intended) and is too sensitive to sleep with a hard lump in her bed?

I was in a hurry, so I left the wooden egg where it lay under the perch. Then yesterday, I noticed that the egg had been moved yet again. It was now all the way on the other side of the aviary in a corner. What the heck. Are they in there playing soccer?

corner

I proceeded to clean under the perches, and lo and behold, there is the egg right where I saw it last week, and in the corner……another just like it!! Mystery solved. Darla had laid two eggs. She obviously wasn’t interested in sitting on them, and we’re not interested in hatching any little peachicks, so I collected the two eggs for examination.

They are not as big as I expected. The white ones on the left are the 2 pea eggs, and the brown one came from one of our chickens.

egg comparison

The big difference is in the size of the yolk.

Yolk comparison

I scrambled them up and fed them to the dogs with their dinner. Two paws up from the pups!!

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Farina on coop

“Hey, guys. I just stopped by for a visit. Where’d everybody go?”

scared chickens

“Hmmm. They were here just a minute ago”

there you are

“Oh, there you are!”

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“Yeeeowww, Yeeeeowww”.

“Bagawk, Bock, Bock, Bock, BEGAWK”.

For those uninitiated in bird speak, that translates into:
“Hellooo, who are youuuu?” (from our recently returned vagrant peacock)

“Help, helphelphelp, H-E-L-P”. (from our little flock of hens who apparently think they are being stalked by the biggest chicken hawk ever)

That was not a discussion that I wanted to hear outside my bedroom window at 7:00 this morning. A quick peak outside revealed the source of the problem. There Farina sat on top of the chicken coop, calling at the top of his lungs, and sending the terrified chickens below scurrying for cover.

Farina on coop

Since Farina, the wandering Peacock returned after a 6 month walk-about, he has been sticking really close to the barn. He can always be seen sitting on a fence rail, or showing off to the llamas. It’s like he’s thinking, ‘I lost this place once and I’m not taking any chances’.

Farina displaying

As he’s getting more comfortable with his surroundings, he’s starting to do a little exploring. Yesterday afternoon, I found him checking out our back yard, and this morning he was trying to make the acquaintance of the hens.

Take a peak in the window. See all the noses pressed against the glass? The chickens are huddled inside peering around wondering where that danged screaming eagle is.

scared chickens

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How to cook the Perfect Boiled Egg.

Good Golly, Miss Molly! Boiling an egg is certainly not an “eggs-acting” science, but few topics disagree so much over the proper technique. Add salt/don’t add salt; add vinegar or baking soda/don’t add vinegar or baking soda; put the eggs in boiling water/put the eggs in cold water; cover the pot/don’t cover the pot; boil the eggs until done/take them off the heat and let them steep; use older eggs/use the freshest eggs possible. What’s a body to believe?

About the only thing that everyone is in agreement on is that really fresh eggs are more difficult to peel than eggs that are at least a week old. If you are buying your eggs from the grocery store, this is rarely ever an issue. By the time eggs hit the shelf, they are often already 30 days old, and the expiration date may be 30 days after that. But if you are lucky enough to raise chickens and collect freshly laid eggs, or have a source for farm fresh eggs, then you know firsthand the “eggs-asperation” of trying to peel boiled eggs without ending up with a mangled mess.

There is a scientific reason for this, and if you are really geeky and want to know the chemistry behind it, you can Google it and study up on it. There’s a whole PH thing going on, but basically, as the egg ages, the egg starts to shrink and the air space between the egg shell and the membrane will get larger, making it easier to peel. So there. Bottom line, if you can let your fresh eggs sit in the fridge for a week or two, all the better.

Since Easter is coming up soon and you may be planning to boil up some Easter Eggs to dye, I thought I would share with you the technique I use for boiling eggs that yields nice yellow yolks without the green tinge, whites that are not rubbery, and eggs that are easier to peel.

There are still many variables that may affect your outcome: how many eggs you are boiling, the size of your pot, the size of your eggs, and your altitude, for instance. But this is what I do.

1. Bring your eggs to room temperature. This helps minimize the eggs cracking as they heat up.
2. Place the eggs gently in a large pot so that you only have one layer of eggs.

Eggs in pot

3. Cover the eggs with cold water so that you have an inch of water covering the eggs.

SONY DSC

4. I put a handful of salt in the water. I don’t think this actually helps the eggs peel better, (as many people believe) but if an egg happens to crack in the pot, the salted water will cause the white to coagulate quickly, thus sealing up the crack so you don’t lose more egg white.

SONY DSC

5. Bring the water to a boil. Just as soon as it reaches a true rolling boil, immediately take the pot off of the heat, and place a tight fitting lid on top of it.
6. Get out your timer and let the pot sit for precisely the recommended time. For small to medium eggs, 12 minutes will do, large eggs should sit for about 15 minutes, and super-duper large eggs should sit for 18 minutes. By following this procedure, you prevent the yolks from getting too hot, which is what causes the green tinge. (Another chemical reaction, if you need to know).
7. As soon as your timer goes off, pour off the hot water and rinse the eggs in cold tap water. Place the eggs in a large bowl, cover with ice cubes and then cover with cold water. Leave the eggs alone for 10-15 minutes or until the eggs are completely cold to the touch.

SONY DSC

8. The easiest way to peel them is to lightly tap them on the counter until the shell is crazed all over. Hold the egg under cold running water and start peeling from the round end where the air sac is.

SONY DSC

9. Now enjoy a perfectly cooked egg. Beautiful creamy yellow yolk with no green ring and a nice tender white that is not at all rubbery.

SONY DSC

Finally, I can enjoy my lunch. Yumm!
Thanks, my dear little chickies!

chickens

If you have a tried and true recipe for boiling eggs, let’s hear it.

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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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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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“Chicken” – Slang: timid or cowardly.
Ever wonder where this expression comes from? You only need to raise a few chicks and it soon becomes quite evident. We’re on our 2nd flock of chicks; the two remaining from our first flock were attacked last week by a baby bobcat. I was worrying about how we were going to successfully integrate the new brood into the coop with the older biddies, but unfortunately, the situation was resolved for us. We got 4 one day old chicks through the mail back in June and have been brooding them, first in the bathroom,

Rubbermaid Brooder

And then when they outgrew that box, we moved them to the garage, where they lived in the spaceship.

Space Ship


The Aliens

Yesterday, at 9 weeks of age, they graduated from flight school and were transferred to their permanent duty station.

Chalet Poulet

When we went through this process 5 years ago with our first brood, we released them into the bottom area first, but then had trouble getting them to figure out how to go upstairs to the roost at night. (There are 2 ladders that you don’t see in this photo that have been temporarily raised). With the first bunch I actually crawled into the coop and pushed them up the ladders one by one. It took 3 nights for them to get the hang of it.

I thought I had a brainstorm this time. But I don’t think like a chicken, thankfully.
“Birdbrain” – Slang: a stupid person; scatterbrain.
I reasoned that if we released them first into the roost area up above, they would see the ladders going down to the daylight and naturally wander down. Then they would understand that the ladders went both up and down. WRONG.

We stuffed them one by one into the little hatches in the ends of the roost area and watched them to see what they would do. It took an age for them to even move one step. Two had been placed on one end and two on the other, and they wouldn’t even move towards each other. Finally after about 10 minutes, they ventured over to the slots in the floor where the ladders lead down. They all lined up around the opening and leaned over as far as they could, hanging on desperately with their toenails, trying to get a peak down below, but no one would attempt the descent.

Confident that they would eventually gather the courage to wander down, we left them for an hour or so to figure it out on their own. Their food and water was down below, so they needed to figure it out soon. When we went back and they still had not gone down, we decided to give them an encouraging nudge. Dear Husband opened the side panels just enough for me to reach a hand in and grab a chicken. I placed her on the top of the stairs and gave her a nudge. She flapped her wings in a desperate attempt to stay atop. I even got her positioned about halfway down the stairs, and she raised her wings up, braced them on either side of the open slot, and used her wings like arms to hoist herself back up into the roost. “Hell no, I won’t go”. I eventually got all four chicks down the ladders, each fighting more vigorously than the last. They each hit the sand and froze. Finally they started to move around a bit. We had lots of chores, so we left them be for a little while. When we came back about 4:00, they were all back up in the loft. Typically too early for even a chicken to go to bed, but at least they had figured out on their own how to climb the stairs to go back up.

This morning I checked on them at 9:00 am. Our previous flock were early risers. As soon as the first rays of sun peaked through, they were up and about. But these “chicken” chickens were still afraid to come downstairs. So once again, I poked them down the hatch as they fought wing and claw to stay in their secure nest area. Once they were all down, I saw them eyeing the ladder and motioning to each other to make a run for it. I quickly pulled the ladders up blocking their escape.

Soon, they discovered where the food dish was and all was right with the world.

Chicken Chow

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Not to forget the skunk, we’ve sure had our share of wildlife woes these last couple of months. Yesterday I found a 3 month old baby bobcat in my chicken coop. I had opened the coop door to let my 2 remaining geriatric hens roam in the chicken yard for the afternoon. But when I rode by on my mower later in the day, something caught my eye that was definitely wrong. There was an animal darting around inside the coop. I couldn’t tell at the time whether it was a raccoon, fox, or cat, but as I approached the coop, I could see it was a cat, but not a housecat. It was the size of a housecat, but had tufted ears, a ruff around the face, and a short tail. I had a bobcat kitten. One of my hens was lying dead near the coop with her throat ripped out. I didn’t see the other, but assumed it was dead too. I quickly shut the door to the coop and locked the kitten in. Don’t be misled when I say “kitten” that this was a cute cuddly ball of fluff. Though this kit couldn’t have weighed more than 5 pounds, it was a hellcat; growling, spitting, hissing, bearing very sharp needlelike teeth.

I found my other chicken, Marilyn, huddled behind a shrub in the corner of the yard. She looked ok at the time, so I left her be, where she was safe. Now, what to do with this baby bobcat. I didn’t want to leave it in lock down too long, in case momma came looking for it. I’ve seen the adult bobcat in the area from time to time. Bobcats are also referred to as Lynx. An adult will be about 24 inches tall, and 36 inches long and weigh around 30 pounds. The momma cat wouldn’t have any trouble ripping that coop apart to rescue her young one.

So I started making calls. First call is to Dear Husband to see if he can get off early. It’s 4:30, and at best, it will be 6:00 before he can be home. Next call is to the Wildlife Rescue League. Their phone message states clearly that they do not retrieve any animals but that they must be delivered to the center. Fat chance that I’m going to tackle that beast and take him anywhere. The simple choice would be to just release him back into the wild. But now he has a taste for chickens and knows where to find them. Then there’s the difficult choice, to send him off to bobcat heaven, but I won’t do that. He is a cute kitten, after all. I would love to get him relocated, but on the other hand, where there is one kitten, there is probably a mom with a litter out there still. No good answer. My last call was to the county sheriff’s animal control division. A very nice lady deputy told me that there was nothing they could do, as they were prohibited from relocated wildlife, but she offered to come out and help release him.

She arrived about one minute after DH got home. Before releasing the cat, we needed to secure my one remaining chicken, still hiding behind the bush. When I retrieved her, I discovered, unfortunately, that she had been bitten on the neck as well, but we’re going to treat with antibiotic ointment and try to bring her through.

We have 4 chicks that are 7 weeks old brooding in the garage. In a couple of weeks, we will move them out to the coop so Marilyn won’t be all alone.

Bob

Green Eyed Bob

Bob Giving the High 5 (or the finger)

I have to find the passage back to the place I was before

The Stink Eye

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