Today it was 38 degrees, raining, and windy. Yesterday it was 41 degrees, raining, and REALLY windy. The day before yesterday it was 45 degrees and practially a freakin’ hurricane. All in all, I’ve been enjoying our lovely spring weather. Now, I’m not one to complain much about weather. When we had unexpected feet of snow this past December, I thought it was kinda cool. When I went to school in upstate NY and it was 20 below with the windchill and a blizzard with four feet of snow already on the ground, I thought it was kinda fun. But, I have to say, when it PRETENDS to be spring and then takes it all away from me, I am not amused. So far, our weather experience in the Pacific NW has been quite positive – even through the winter, we’ve had days of sunshine mixed in with clouds and rain. I can handle a balance. But right now, this is getting ridiculous. Since that glorious Wednesday, the clouds have been so heavy that it’s practically like nighttime all the time. The rain has been just frequent enough to leave everything a sodden, muddy mess. I am itching to get outside and let the chickies free range (with constant supervision, duh), to finish filling the garden boxes with my beautiful dirt and get some cool-weather seeds planted (think spinach, lettuce, chard, pea, broccoli and various other brassicas). I want to get my rhubarb and asparagus in the ground. I want to plant my baby roses. I want to get sweet peas in the ground. I want a little SUN. But, alas. It is not to be. The forecast looks the same as far out as they bother to predict: temps in the 30s to 50s, cloudy, rain. Everyday.
Ahh, but you’re probably wondering less about my weather, and more about our Lady B.
Well, remarkably, it seems she has made a full recovery. It is truly amazing to me. In less than 32 hours, she went from being smashed by a hawk and bleeding from the mouth to being able to be back in the coop with her friends. After being shy about coming out of the coop, and then out of the run for a couple of days, she is now back to her old, happy, adventurous self. She is one of the first to pop out the doors and run out to free range and she is generally happy to be off by herself, though that’s what got her in trouble before. For those first couple of days, I thought she had learned her lesson – at first, she stayed in the coop with the homebodies and wouldn’t even come out into the run. Then, she’d come into the run but not out to free-range. Then she would come out to free-range but she would stay RIGHT with me – like directly under my feet – and follow me everywhere, even if she had to run to keep up. But she’s over that now. Now she hasn’t a care in the world. And I am happy about it. I don’t want her changed. True, she’d be safer if she were a scardy-cat homebody that stuck around at my feet… but that’s just not the Lady Banks we know and love.
It is remarkable how hardy these birds can be. While some are suceptible to diseas etc, and seem to die at the dro pof a hat…. I have been reading so many amazing stories of survival on Backyard Chickens. Today I read about a hen that had a predator (of some sort, no one saw it happen) reach through the wire of her run and eat one of her wings off entirely. She just had a bone left sticking out. And she survived. And when the lady posted for help about it, people came out of the woodwork to talk about how their chickens had survived the same sort of things. There are many one- and no-winged chickens out there, living full, happy lives. Amazing.
Anyway, point is, things seem to be back to normal in our happy little coop. Of course, they’re none too happy about having to be closed inside almost constantly, but that’s really not so bad :) In light of this near-disaster, though, I have been researching ways to help deter hawks from making my chickies into light snacks. Of course, the real answer (besides keeping them locked up all the time, which is the opposite of my free-ranging goal) is to get a guard dog that will watch over and protect the flock from all predators. It is generally agreed that a Great Pyrenees is the best choice. And that is all good and fine except I’m all out of room for another dog, so that option is out. However, there is another “guard dog” that is often overlooked these days – that’s right, you guessed it – guard geese! After much reading, research, and conversation with other backyard poultry enthusiasts, I found that many people have great luck with keeping larger, more imposing and aggressive birds with their chickens. Apparently a hawk won’t attack if it thinks it could get hurt in the process. One lady was losing chickens left and right to hawks until she got a gigantic tom turkey. It has now been a year and he has been 100% effective – no more losses to hawks. Many other people have had the same success with geese. Geese are large, self-sufficient, imposing, and often aggressive animals that are not appealing to hawks. And, apparently their presence helps deter them from attacking nearby chickens and ducks. Sure, they’re not perfect, but I am willing to try this if it helps. Besides… how cool would it be to have geese? In Australia and the UK, it is becoming popular to keep geese instead of dogs to guard houses… they will attack invaders and can potentially inflict wounds. If nothing else, they sound a loud alarm, which seems to be quite effective. All this and they also eat almost 100% grass and weeds and need very little purchased feed, they are suceptible to virtually no diseases, unlike chickens, and they don’t even really need a coop, though I would probably give them a small one – otherwise coyotes could present an issue eventually. Also, you get the occasional goose egg for eating or baking, which is awesome. I am still considering getting geese, but I am leaning heavily in that direction. I’ll keep you posted.
Boys Will Be Boys
I find it interesting how our boys are progressing. There are at least three of them, probably four (that is assuming that we only have Marans boys and all other breeds are all pullets). We have JB, Scruffy, another boy, and a maybe-boy. JB is really starting to impress me with his changing of attitude and maturity. He has always matured faster than the others – he is bigger, with more-developed comb and wattles. He used to be a big pain-in-my-rear and would puch everyone around and challenge me and peck at me and be generally annoying and pushy – but also dumb and flighty, afraid of even my hand. But now, he seems calmer, wiser, and more stately. He doesn’t pick on anyone anymore, he doesn’t challenge me or peck at me… he just chills with his ladies. The night I took Lady Banks back into the coop, I think I caught one of his first attempts at crowing! It was pretty funny, but I was excited anyway…. he walked over by us, kinda stretched out, and made this funny, screetchy kinda noise. Maybe it wasn’t a crow, but it’s very likely at this point, and I have read that it’s pretty funny when they first try to do it. I haven’t heard it since then, but I’ll keep you posted. And today, I was MOST proud of him. Today after work, even though it was freezing and raining and windy, I let them out to free-range, briefly. At the time, it was misty and breezy, but not terrible. They were out of a bit and then suddenly a bunch of them started back for the coop, with JB on their heels. At the same moment, I noticed the rain start to pick up and fall in huge, heavy drops. Animals pick up on that stuff faster than humans. Anyway… when they got to the door to the run, JB stopped. He watched them all go into the coop and then he stood up tall and looked around the area where they range. He spotted two of the Marans boys and a Buff, over by the old garden (their favorite spot because it has the longest grass). He promptly put his head down and ran straight for them, making a little clucking noise as he went (by the way, while they all still “peep” like babies most of the time, some are starting to make deeper “clucking” noises as well). They all looked up and headed for him, then he got behind them and ushered them into the coop. Then, he again stopped and looked around for any stragglers, and then put himseld away as well.
HOW COOL IS THAT?? My little man is growing up and taking charge of his flock! He was looking out for them and put them all away when the weather got bad!!! This is so exciting to me! I know it’s probably normal behavior, but it seemed pretty advanced to me.
Ok, onto the other boys…
Scruffy is just plain cute and lovable. He is not obnoxious and loves people (though I can’t really pet him yet) and makes the cute little happy worm song to greet you. But, he is clearly lower on the totem pole of guys than JB.
Then there is this guy. He is not on my list of favorites these days. He is now in the stage that JB has already been through and that Scruff will hopefully skip. This is the cockeral that pecked Lady B at the feeder ber first night back. He is picking on everyone these days and challenging both JB and me every chance he gets. He casually walks up to JB and tries to step on his back. He squares off with him outside when they are free-ranging, but one little hop on his head and JB is always the victor for now. He pecks everyone, often quite hard, for no apprent reason. And he LOVES to challenge me. He walks up to me and stares me straight in the eye and doesn’t back off if I yell at him and give him what-for, and if I try to poke at him to let him know who’s boss, he tries to peck hard at my hand. So charming. I was so proud of my JB tonight, though. This guy and I were having our of our face-offs and while he was staring me down, JB calmly walked up behind him, watched him for a moment, clucked at him, and when that didn’t work, JB pecked him on the head to make him back off me (or at least, that was how it seemed to me). I was such a proud mama!
Lastly, there is this chick. It is darker than the other males, but lighter than the females. It has more comb color and growth than the girls, but less than JB and Scruff. So, I THINK it’s a boy, but I’m not sure. It could be a light-ish (but still plenty dark enough to be a girl) pullet (that means female) with early-ish comb development. The color and comb development are noth out of the norm at this point for a pullet, but is much more distinct that the other two girls. Either way, this is a shy bird that doesn’t do face-offs or really even come over to let me get a good picture.
Other Chicken News
I have been trying to get a picture of this for a while for you. This Marans female is getting her head feathers and they are starting first to come in right over/in front of her eyes. They stick up and look very funny.
The Buffs continue to get nice and fluffy, just like I like. I still cannot tell them apart to save my life, though.
A couple of the Ameraucanas are starting to develop nice beards and muffs, just as they are supposed to do.
Pippin Chicken has a little bit of fluff under one side of his/her chin. I cannot decide if this is a developing muff/beard or if it is just the fuzz that is falling out as the feathesr grow in. If it is a beard/muff, then Pippin is an Ameraucana. If it is not, then it’s still a mystery.
And I finally got pics of Daisy Mae back up in front of the nesting boxes, so you have a good basis for comparison so you can see how much they are all growing. February 28th: