The girls have been confined to the run and their coop since last summer. With the weather finally nice, and the bugs finally out in force again, I decided they should have some recess time outside in the afternoons again. They love their freedom, risky as it is.
Young master Henry, looking more like his grandmother Guinevere every day.
Help! I’m schtuck!
We’ve had the most annoying kind of winter weather in the last few days. We got about three inches of snow Thursday night, but because the temperature hovered right around freezing, it was already too wet in the early morning to clear with the snowblower. (When the snow is too wet, it just kind of breaks into shoals that get pushed around by the snowblower chute.) So I had to clear our driveway by hand with the big sled-type push shovel.
Temperatures on Friday and Saturday were in the 40-something range, which means all the snow turned into slush and water. The chicken coop was a muddy mess that looked like the birds were reenacting WWI trench warfare on the western front. I had to put down a few pallets to give them dry feet temporarily.
Last night, temps dropped down to fifteen degrees, and guess what happened to all that water and slush? That’s right: SKATING RINK.
I always feel bad for the birds when temperatures dip that low, but the feed store assured us that these are cold-hardy birds that are fine without any sort of heat in their coop right down to zero degrees or less. And sure enough, they were hopping out of the coop this morning for their breakfast just like any other day. I’ve actually read advice against providing them with heat, because they’ll get used to it and then end up freezing when the power goes out and they have to spend a night or two without their heat source. Seems a little harsh, but people have been keeping chickens in the winter for thousands of years without the luxury of indoor heating, I guess. The coop has electricity via weather-proof extension cord from the garage, but the only things hooked up to it are the electrically heated water fountain and the chain of Christmas LED lights for added daylight on the fringes of the day to keep the egg production going.
This is my first livestock of any kind, so it’s still a learning process. But hey—they’re still alive and active, so I must be doing something right at least.
Doggie #2 of 4 has a hematoma on his ear flap. Taping down the ear to prevent him from shaking it didn’t work, and the hematoma has increased in size. So I’m about to take him to the vet again, which will make my third vet visit in four days. He will likely need a surgical drain & staple procedure, which runs about the price of a new iPad these days.
For Christmas, everyone is getting a dozen chicken eggs this year. Maybe there’ll be enough left in the till to buy the kids a copy of “101 Fun Games With Perishable Ovoids”.
Araucanas are sometimes called “Easter eggers” because they lay pastel blue-green eggs. (Notice the size differences in this batch. They’re still adjusting their dispensing units.)
The eggs from our hens taste better than the store-bought ones. The yolks are darker and more flavorful. It’s been a fair amount of work and effort, but it’s nice to have locally-sourced eggs. And by “locally”, I mean “from the chicken coop across our driveway.”
The new patio, pieced together from leftover granite and marble countertop pieces.
A little while ago I was out on the new patio area, putting together some planters and trinkets the wife had ordered for the new outdoor space. As I was screwing together the driftwood planter, I heard the characteristic “red alert” bawk-bawk-bawking of panicked chickens. I dropped my tools and sprinted through the covered porch and into the front yard, thinking that a weasel or fox had gotten into Cluckheim Keep despite our iron-clad security setup.
As I ran into the front yard with the shotgun, I saw the cause for the chicken distress swoop out of the sky and hit the chicken run a second time: a buzzard, almost as big as one of our Barred Rock hens (and they are large birds.) He flew off and settled on a tree branch at the edge of the yard.
I brought up the Remington and put the front sight bead on him. It would have been an easy shot, maybe twenty-five yards, a no-brainer with a full choke on a sitting bird.
He just looked at me and the chicken coop as if to say Screw you and your boomstick, hairless ape.
I turned the gun over to the hillside for a safe backstop and let off a shell to scare him off. He looked, spread his wings, and flew off in no particular hurry, as if he knew that he’s a protected species. (Not that I would have shot him even if he wasn’t—they eat rodents and other pests and are way too beautiful to kill, and the chickens are safe from him in the run in any case.)
In summary: birds of prey are beautiful, everything out here in the woods eats chickens, and a solid run enclosed in half-inch hardware cloth is a chicken’s best friend in these parts.
My old school friend Joerg stopped by for the weekend. He is on a business trip to Ontario, and he had the time to visit with us for two days, so I did my best to play New Hampshire Chamber of Commerce. On Saturday, I took him for a drive down to southern NH (with a stopover at Chez Vachon in Manchester for a poutine lunch), and on Sunday we just relaxed at the house and caught up on stuff over good food and a fair amount of flavored ethanol.
(Joerg was my desk neighbor in high school, which means I’ve known him for almost thirty years. When we were driving around, I asked him if that means we’re getting old, and he emphatically rejected the notion.)
The kids were out of the house all day yesterday. Trusted friends of ours took their grandkids to Water Country for the day, and they asked if our two wanted to tag along, which they did. So we had a quiet house yesterday, which was actually a little unnerving.
Thanks for all the kind words and condolences regarding our Miss Guinevere. She will come home in an urn early this week at some point. It’s still strange not to see her come into the kitchen at feeding time, or walk by her corner where she usually napped under a blanket and not see her snoozing there. But it was her time, she was in horrible pain, and in the end, we did her a kindness.
This morning I’ve already sent my friend on his way back over to Ontario for a fun week of business meetings. Now I get to put away laundry, clean the house again for tomorrow’s play date, and get a thousand words or so in on the work in progress. I KNOW, THE GLAMOUR, RIGHT?
Oh, and we humans put a nuclear-powered car on Mars last night. How cool is that? Science—it works.