Oh, Cluck.

I made the decision that the Beakheads should learn to free-range.  Actually, there’s not that much learning involved with walking around the yard eating bugs and delicious green things.  They have that part down.  The real problem is getting them OUT of the coop to said free-ranging area without causing a chicken heart attack or a human heart attack because I’m the one chasing them around.

So I had this brilliant idea a couple of nights ago.  Instead of trying to catch one of them, I would lure them out the door by leaving a trail of scratch for them to follow.  I went into their area in the coop (they were all out in the run)  and stood around with the bucket of scratch and then “accidentally” threw some into the shavings…and it made that sound that grain makes when it hits the floor.  I didn’t have to wait more than a few seconds and half a dozen chickens showed up at the door to the run.

They’re suckers for scratch.

I dropped a little more and started backing out of the gate, talking sweet chicken talk.  They followed the trail of scratch and pretty soon they were standing in the work area.  I had managed to only corral two out of the original half-dozen that had come in and that was just fine.  I wasn’t ready to manage TOO many of them out in the yard, by myself.  Before I try that, I’ll need a box of wine and a large butterfly net because you KNOW they won’t listen to me once they’re out there.  Anyway, I had Ruth and Opal.  I scooped up Opal, and Ruth followed me because…well, she had no idea what else to do.

flock

Cluck was frantically walking back and forth looking for his women!

I plopped Opal down in a patch of white clover and Ruth started maniacally eating clover not far away.  They were very well behaved…and adorable…but what was going on in the run was sort of embarrassing because the rest of the flock was FREAKING OUT.  Cluck was frantically running back and forth at the end of the run because I’d taken not ONE, but TWO of his women.  He was out of his tiny mind.  To make matters worse, the rest of the girls were carrying on something awful because they could SEE Opal and Ruth, but couldn’t get to them.  There was a lot of hurling themselves against the fence and attempts to fly out of the run which of COURSE didn’t work because the run has a top on it.  Vinnie was out of his mind because he was missing a snack.

I let the girls forage around for a little while and they eventually foraged their way back to the run and stood there making chicken noises at the flock that was still inside.  I finally herded them back into the coop and put them back in the pen where they were MOBBED by the other chickens.

Apparently, they are now Free-Range Celebrities or something.

It was time to fill the feeder, so I picked it up and made my way through the door to the work area where I keep the feed storage can.  In some weird mix-up of my feet, the feeder and a lot of chickens, Cluck ended up in the work area with me…outside the chicken pen…

HE. FREAKED. OUT.

He jumped up on the straw bale and hurled himself over and over at the fence.  His eyes were panicked and he was clearly thinking “WRONG SIDE! WRONG SIDE! SWEET LAWD AMIGHTY I’M ON THE WRONG SIDE!!!!!!”

I filled the feeder and he flailed around and generally made a complete idiot of himself.  The chickens IN the pen watched him completely melt-down with mild interest, but none of them panicked.  I finally opened the door to the pen and he STREAKED inside like he was rocket-propelled.  The others gathered around and clucked excitedly.  Except for Vinnie…who was waiting near where the feeder usually sits, because…you know….FRESH FEED.

I put the feeder back in place and they absolutely love the new organic, non-GMO feed (<–that’s the feed link) that I got for them and pretty soon most of them were beak down in the feeder digging for sunflower seeds that are in the feed.  Vinnie looked up at me to see if I had anything else delicious and his wattles were COVERED with feed dust.  He didn’t care.  Just stuck his head back in the feeder.

Nom-nom-nom.

Nom-nom-nom.

Cluck was still trying to get a hold of himself after being on the wrong side of the fence.  I told him, that if he’s ever going to get anywhere with the ladies, he has to at least TRY to be brave.  He ruffled his feathers and shook them, like he was trying to shake off the terror of the entire event and then jumped up on a roost to watch the others.

I don’t think Cluck will be free-ranging with the others any time soon since it causes him that much anxiety.  I told him that he’s got to toughen up otherwise, Vinnie would attempt an overthrow of the GOP.   I know Vinnie wouldn’t do that…unless there was a major pile of treats involved…and then he’d only want to be in charge until the treats were gone.  I don’t think Cluck is worried about Vinnie staging a coup attempt.  I think he’s worried he’ll have a heart attack and Vinnie will end up in charge by default.

And that won’t be good at ALL.

 

Advertisements

Chicken Freak Out!

You won’t be surprised to learn that it was insufferably hot here all weekend.  I’m not sure if it was really HOT as much as it was HUMID.  Either way, I spent a lot of time griping about the heat and wearing my hair in a pony tail because I’m out of the hair spray that allows me to turn it into a brown football helmet.  I also spent a lot of time keeping the chickens cool and the pile of melon skins in the run is getting to be almost embarrassing…for them….not me…well, I guess for me too because if I was a good chicken mama I’d go into the run and get them, right?  Well…the run doesn’t have a man door yet.  We’re working on it.  Once it’s in, I’ll go in there with a back hoe and clean out those melon skins IF the chickens will let me have them.

Last evening, I went out to check on the Beaked Freaks and they were all calmly lying around in The Dust Bowl and preening in the twig pile at the end of the run.  Tom was walking the dogs (there are seven…it takes a while) and when I’m sitting by the run, he’ll bring whatever dog, or trio of dogs (the Chihuahuas all go out together) by the run so that they can see the chickens.  They are all curious about the chickens, so we’d rather let them see them close up through the run than have them obsessed with trying to go back there because we won’t let them.  The chickens could care less that there is a dog parade is going on.  In fact, the dogs could care less that they are IN the dog parade.  Anyway, it was just a typical evening.

All of a sudden, Opal started cackling like she was really upset.  All the chickens stopped doing whatever chicken activity they were doing, and looked around.  Opal kept looking back at the tree line and just wouldn’t stop.  Tom came by with one of the dogs to see what all the ruckus was about (“Can you describe the ‘ruckus’, sir?” <–Breakfast Club reference).  By this time, Opal was in full siren mode and couldn’t seem to stop herself.  Her face was bright red and I’d never heard her make this noise before.  She didn’t notice the dog that Tom was walking, she was upset with the tree line.  REALLY upset.

I’ve noticed when one chicken gets upset, the rest of the flock follows suit.  Cluck had gone into surveillance mode and was scanning the sky, but he made no sounds.  The rest of the chickens were quiet too.  Much quieter than they normally are.  Except for Opal who was clearly out of her mind about something she was sure would kill them all.  Vinnie was sort of a mess and was trying to look at everything at once and his comb and wattles were flying in all directions as he tried to keep an eye on everything and then he got so excited that he sounded the same alarm.

“BUK-BUK-BUK-BUK-BUK-GAWWWWWWWWWK!!!!”

Then he looked around like he had no idea where that sound even CAME from.  Hey…he had a rough weekend.  First Cluck chased him around for about 12 hours and then there was that whole fight with Opal and there was no more melon in the run which was really the biggest problem as far as he was concerned.

Gloria crept up to Opal as if to ask “What’s wrong?” and Opal just continued sounding the alarm.  I saw the neighbors’ cat through the bushes in the tree line, but they usually don’t care about that cat and in fact, there are a couple of neighborhood cats (including our cat Pandora) who come to lay outside the run on some old shingles that are part of the woodpile.  So cats aren’t a “thing” for the chickens.  They are curious about them, but they’ve never acted afraid of them.

Even after the cat was gone, Opal continued to freak out and the others were getting decidedly more nervous.  Suddenly (and you can barely hear it in the video, there was the sound of something large in the trees next to the run…like WAY up in the trees.  The branches rustled and it sounded as if something jumped to another branch.  We have a lot of squirrels because of the oak and walnut trees on the property…this didn’t sound like a squirrel.  It sounded a bit….bigger.

Here’s what we heard:

I never did figure out what she was so upset about.  I suppose there could have been a raccoon in the tree, but we’ve never seen one around the house.  It could have been a large, clumsy squirrel…but something tells me it wasn’t.  Frankly, I have no idea what it was, but it sure scared Opal.  I actually took several videos of her making that noise, because I think she probably carried on for at least ten minutes.  So it remains a mystery.

sasquatch chicken

But I told the chickens it was a Sasquatch.

 

Left out.

Sometimes, the chickens do things that make me sad.  Don’t get me wrong, I love them to bits.   The situation with Roseanna has not gotten any better though.  I have to agree with them, she’s a complete weirdo.  She just has no manners.  She steps on other flock members, knocks them over when she comes rampaging through the group and is just generally….well…WEIRD.

The flock has just had it with her.  They peck her when she tries to join them.  She hasn’t been injured yet, but I’m going to have to figure out what to do with this situation.  At this point, she’s become an outcast and spends most of her time by herself, which she doesn’t seem to mind.  Last night, everyone was in The Dust Bowl preening and she sat alone in a pile of twigs just watching.   It broke my heart a little bit.

rosanna alone

It’s ridiculously hot here today….AGAIN.  I’d planned on going to a local farmers market but one of my spies on the scene contacted me and said that it’s packed and it’s HOT.  I’m not good in public on a nice day.  I just don’t like crowds. So, I think we’ll make the trip to another AIR-CONDITIONED market that a local orchard runs.  It’s actually a store…which is better for me and no one will get stabbed if they get in my way because I won’t be hot and sweaty.  I’m only thinking of people’s safety.

The flock has been a bit cranky too.  Cluck has been stalking Vinnie and I’m not sure why other than Vinnie is another boy.   Last night, Vinnie was minding his own goofy business when all of a sudden Cluck freaked out and threatened him with the whole ruffled hackle feathers routine.  Vinnie responded by ruffling his hackle feathers for a split second and then ran like a scared little girl.  Cluck took off after him and Vinnie ran faster and so did Cluck.  Pretty soon, Vinnie ran over to the fence where I was sitting on my chair and looked at me frantically.  Cluck glided up behind him and by this time Vinnie had made himself very tall and skinny and looked as though he might just pass out right there.  I got very close to the fence…just out of Cluck’s pecking distance and whispered..”Cluck, honey” and then yelled “KNOCK IT OFF”…and Cluck blinked at me a few times and turned and walked away.  Vinnie was still all tall and skinny and I tried to calm him down by stroking his chest feathers and finally he stopped his frantic clucking and got back to his  previous business of just chickening around.

AND, one of the Wyandotte sisters has become obsessed with the other chickens’ feathers.  If she sees a feather out-of-place on one of the other birds, she feels that it’s her important responsibility to remove the out-of-place feather.  She thinks she’s the aesthetician of the flock.  I think she’s a budding feather picker and she better stop it or I’m going to put her beak on the back of her head.  She and I have talked and she’s considering her options.

flowers

In other news, the plants on the deck are doing wonderfully!  I don’t want to talk about the garden.  Really.  Topic is completely off-limits.  I’m pretty sure that those tomatoes from the farm market we go to will be DELICIOUS.

 

New levels of craziness reached.

Sometimes, I like to take a step back and evaluate whether or not I’ve still got all of my oars in the water.  I mean, I’m pretty close to them being both out of the water on a daily basis, but you know…I just want to make sure that I’m still just STANDING at the edge of crazy and I haven’t actually jumped into full-blown-need-medication-possibly-certifiable craziness.

TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. NOW.

TURN ON THE AIR CONDITIONING. NOW.

So, a couple of nights ago, when it was REALLY hot, I was pretty worried about the chickens.  I know, I know.  They were originally jungle fowl and acclimated to heat and humidity, but I’m telling you what, if I dropped these ten chickens into the jungle somewhere, they’d never make it.  Not because they’d be eaten by a giant jungle bug that eats chickens, but because they are so spoiled and would be waiting around for someone to make them a delicious jungle snack and wouldn’t look for food on their own…and THEN they’d get eaten by a giant jungle bug.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I was really worried about them because they were panting and looking at me like I should DO something.  I was doing my best, they just thought I should be installing a new central air unit in the coop apparently.

I finally went into the house (where it was blissfully cool) and then sat around and felt guilty because they were still outside in the heat…probably baking…and possibly suffering from some chicken heat ailment.  My constantly reeling brain came up with countless tragic chicken situations.   I tried to see what was going on in the run from my usual sofa perch, but I couldn’t really tell what they were doing.   So, I went and got our binoculars and watched them through the window like some sort of weird poultry creeper.  Tom took a picture.  I’m not showing it to you because when I end up being committed, I don’t want it to be part of the evidence…but you really should get yourself some binoculars.

That blue circle is the FABULOUS cooling thing!

That blue circle is the FABULOUS cooling thing!

I sent poor Tom (everybody say it “POOR TOM”) to the store yesterday to look for misters.  Whole town is sold out.  There are NONE.  NADA.  ZIP. So much for that idea.  HOWEVER!  He brought home a big box fan to put at the end of the run!  I set a frozen milk jug of water in front of it and BAM. Instant air conditioner…sort of.  The chickens did like it though.   The whole flock stood in front of the fan, which was on the “HURRICANE FORCE WIND” setting and let the cool air ruffle their feathers.  Cluck stopped panting and everyone looked so much more comfortable.  Yay Tom for thinking of getting a fan for the run!  (everybody say it “YAY TOM!!!!”).  Okay, now stop it, or I won’t be able to live with him.

Last Friday, Emma had a friend over to swim (read as: they scream at each other in the pool).  Her father came over to pick up the friend in the early evening and as he came around the back of the house, I was walking by…with a chicken stuffed under my arm.

“Is THAT a CHICKEN????”

“Yes!  Isn’t she darling?  I LOVE them.”

And then Tom went on to explain to the guy that I’ve become obsessed with poultry, writing for a magazine’s blog, blah-blah-blah.  Then Tom offered to show him the coop because Tom has slipped a little toward crazy himself (honestly, he was halfway there already) and thinks my coop is AWESOME.

Because it is.

Groovy coop!

Groovy coop!

So we walked back to the coop (I still had Opal stuffed under my arm) and when we came around the corner and he could see the whole thing, he stopped and just said, “Wow…that’s a….that’s quite a coop.”

He obviously just doesn’t get it.

I haven’t really added anything…that I can think of.  I just rearrange the stuff on the floor all the time to give them new things to figure out and we ripped out the shelf in the back so that I could haul in a giant fallen branch that they could use as a roost.   I’m sure it adds to the neighbors’ dismay that I’m hauling around giant tree branches and disappear into a tiny building with them.  I’m just waiting for Edwin (the guy’s wife next door…that’s not really her name, but she looks like a guy, so Greg and I call her Edwin) and Jean (who’s real name is Becky and I can’t remember her name so I insist on calling her Jean) to show up at my door any day now telling me that I can’t raise chickens in a subdivision and could I PLEASE shut up that rooster (Cluck).  Of course, I read all the laws and I CAN raise chickens and a rooster in my subdivision so they can just COOL THEIR JETS.

See.  I’m making up conversations with people who’s names I don’t even remember.

Possibly…probably…certainly going to end up in some sort of facility.

But at least I can lower their air conditioning bills by installing fans and frozen milk jugs! WHEEEE!

 

I shared this post on the From the Farm Blog Hop! and the Simple Saturdays Blog Hop and The Homestead Barn Hop #164

 

Feelin hot-hot-hot.

So, the southern Indiana heat continues and just for fun, it’s mixed with about 500 percent humidity.  If you go outside and just stand still, you will need a towel to dry off in about a minute and a half.  If you have hair, just figure it’s not going to do what you want it to, so you might as well wear a hat, put it in a pony tail or shellac it to your head…which is what I did this morning with about half a can of AIR TIGHT hairspray.

The chickens are OVER it.  Last night, when I went to the coop after work, they were all standing around panting, which is what chickens do when they’re hot because they can’t sweat.  We provided them with as much “coolness” as we could yesterday by placing frozen water bottles around their environment, feeding cold and frozen treats and I even made them a little wading pool out of a cat litter pan and threw a bottle of frozen water in that.  A few came over to check out the wading pool with the frozen water bottle in it, but since it was a new thing, they didn’t happily jump in to cool their scaly toes, but sort of just walked around it and clucked to themselves.   I tried to coax Vinnie into the wading pool since he’s usually the first one to try new things, but…you know, it’s VINNIE we’re talking about here and the best that I was able to get him to do was to perch on the side of the pan and drink out of it like one of those birds from the seventies.

drinking bird I went out to the coop several times to check on them last night, trying to figure out other ways that I could help them to cool off.  They seem to like lying next to the coop building where the air comes out from underneath the coop.  That’s Cluck’s favorite hang out and on hot days, he’s usually hanging out there (panting) with a couple of his ladies (also panting).

During another chicken check, I found several of them lying in the dust bath.  I think Vinnie had been partially buried in sand and dirt because when he heard me on the path, he popped up very quickly like he was mounted on some sort of springs and a giant cloud of sand and dirt exploded into the air.  He came skittering over to the side of the run looking for treats (even though they’d just devoured a quarter of a cold melon) and he stood there panting. Poor guy!

I spent most of the evening (in between chicken temperature checks) trying to figure out what else I could do to try to cool them off.  This by far is not the hottest it gets here.  This is just JUNE.  It gets ridiculous in the middle of summer.  Sometimes we don’t even use our pool because the water is so warm that it’s not even refreshing.  It’s just DUMB that it gets that hot down here.  We wait all winter for the spring and summer to arrive and then when it does, you’re afraid to step foot out the door without an asbestos suit.

I’ve also got to find a way to have one of the coop doors open at night and I’ve been ranting to Tom about building this massive screen door thing out of wood and hardware cloth.  There are windows in the coop and a fan, but once I close those big main doors, although the fan moves air from the outside through the window, it still gets mighty toasty in there.

yellow melon

This morning when I opened the doors of the coop, I half expected to see golden brown rotisserie chickens on the roosts.  Worrying about the heat and humidity kept me up fairly late last night, but I was up and out to the coop early to spray down the run and refill the watering stations.  I also threw a couple of handfuls hackberry leaves into the wading pool to hopefully entice them to get in to get the leaves out because they are their FAVORITE thing to eat these days.  Vinnie saw me picking leaves and was just out of his mind with excitement.  He purred and rumbled and clucked while I finished picking leaves and then I walked over and tossed them into the wading pool.  He ran over and looked at the leaves in the water and tried to catch one and got a beak full of water instead.  He clucked several times and tried again…same thing…beak full of water.  He was joined by several others and they all tried catching floating hackberry leaves with varying degrees of success.  Most of them just ended up taking drinks of water as the hackberry leaves floated out of their reach.  Tom called a bit ago and said that some of them must have gotten into the wading pan because most of the hackberry leaves were gone and the gravel all around the pan was wet from splashing.

YES!!!  Now, if I can keep them from drowning themselves I’ll be in good shape.

So, Tom is out shopping for various cooling devices as I type this…misters, outdoor big fans, etc.  I told him that if it gets too hot, I’m herding the whole mess of them into the air-conditioned three car garage that he uses as his shop.  They can be his “helpers”!  I’m pretty sure the thought of 10 sweaty chickens hanging out in his shop and perching on his table saw is what sent him shopping first thing this morning.  He’ll fix it up so that they have the coolest coop and run in Indiana.

There’s a method to my madness (wink).

Adventures in Chicken Feed.

I obsess about chicken feed.  I know you find that hard to believe (<—sarcasm).  I’m always looking for some kind of wonder-feed that will make my chickens big, shiny, happy and able to bench press a Dodge Ram.  It’s sort of ironic, because my daughter, who’s ten, basically survives on pizza and chicken nuggets and the occasional cereal bar.  She’s one of those kids who decided at some point in her infancy that food with any kind of nutritional value must be avoided at all costs.  At some point I just gave up getting her to try new things because the drama was just too much.  The chickens on the other hand will inhale anything I give them which balances out the feeling that I’m the “WORST PARENT IN THE WORLD” because Emma won’t eat anything green…or anything else for that matter.

square eggs and iI’ve been buying feed for the chickens at a local farm supply store.  I even found non-GMO, organic feed at said farm supply store.  I even went so far as to buy a bag.  However, it did not deter me from my course in finding the BEST CHICKEN FOOD ON THE PLANET.   I have no idea how to judge whether or not it’s the best chicken food on the planet, but I’ll figure that out…or I’ll just buy the kind that looks prettiest.  Which is basically how I make choices about a lot of things.

Yesterday, after Tom’s little stint to the doctor’s office, we came home and hung out for a while.  I have this weird problem with anxiety.  Everything can be perfectly fine and I get so anxious that I’m unable to do anything productive and I sort of spin my wheels and agonize about things that really don’t matter a whole lot.  Tom has come to the point where he can see when I’m getting a little bit too wound up about dumb stuff and he knows that if he gets me out of the house, I’ll calm down because I’m distracted by shiny things.  I also have a tendency to spend money online when I’m anxious, so when he saw me shopping for chickens online he suggested that we go for a ride somewhere and then in the next sentence he said “We could go find that feed store you’ve been talking about.”

Feed store?  I had my flip-flops on and was waiting in the truck before he could find his sun glasses.

I’ve been to a few feed stores recently in the search for the perfect chicken chow.  Last Saturday we went to a local feed store that I’ve never been to before and found that it was a MECCA for animal stuff.  Especially horse stuff.  I used to show horses and had a big beautiful Arabian gelding.  Tom went to the men’s room while I was in this feed store and when he returned I’d already picked out Ariat riding boots, several pieces of tack and was talking to the clerk about fancy over reach boots.  Tom pointed out that I didn’t have a horse and wasn’t getting one.  Thank you Tommy Buzzkill.  So I asked the lady behind the counter (who was totally frazzled because the computer was down and she was having to figure tax on purchases with a calculator) where all the chicken stuff was.  She looked confused and said “We have chicken FOOD…what else do they need?”

Obviously, she knows nothing about chickens.

So we set out for this other feed store yesterday.  I had no idea where it was, but I had an address.  I thought it shouldn’t be too hard to find and I knew that this chain of feed stores had locations all over the south, just not in Indiana…which means we had to drive to Kentucky which really is just over the river from where we live.  I assumed that the feed store would be in the town of Henderson because the address is Henderson.  Let’s just say…I was wrong.  After a half hour of driving in the wilds of Kentucky (it really wasn’t that wild, but it was the middle of nowhere) we finally drove up to the store which was essentially a huge pole building with ten thousand anhydrous ammonia tanks parked outside.  I said something witty like “Look!  They make meth here!” as we pulled into a parking space and then I rocketed out of the truck because I get really excited at new stores.

As we went into the store, a bell rang signaling that a customer (us) had arrived.  There didn’t appear to be anyone around that worked there.  I was instantly disappointed because I really thought it would be a cool feed store.  In the store portion of the building, which was just a fraction of the whole building…and I mean a TINY fraction, there was a big gun safe, a generator and a lot of fly spray on display.  Welcome to Kentucky.  That pretty much sums up the state right there (sorry Kentucky people).  About that time, a short, round, greasy looking guy in a seed corn hat that looked like it had been dipped in grease shuffled out of the back room followed by a woman in a monogrammed company smock and another guy that looked like he lived under a tractor.  I asked if they had organic, non GMO chicken feed.  The round greasy seed corn hat guy chuckled.  The lady told me that she could order it, but it was THIRTY-SEVEN DOLLARS a bag and then she waited for me to be aghast at the price.  I just replied “yep…it can be pricey”.  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said “Jest puttem outside and they’ll find what they need…you don’t need no fancy food.”  I laughed and shot him a death glare at the same time and replied “They’re home eating a yellow watermelon right now.”  Greasy Seed Corn Hat said something he thought was funny that I don’t remember and Living Under a Tractor guy roared with laughter.  I rolled my eyes and thanked them and we were out the door and back in the truck and on our way home. The whole thing took less than 5 minutes.

So the adventure was a total bust.  I continue to seek out the world’s finest chicken chow, which I could totally order online, but shipping is outrageous for a 40 pound bag of chicken feed.  The stuff I have is perfectly fine, non-GMO, organic feed and they love it BUT!  I will not rest until I find them the PRETTIEST non-GMO, organic chicken feed.

You know I’m kidding, right?  As long as they eat it, are healthy, happy and can bench press that Dodge Ram, I don’t care how it looks.

And now…for your listening pleasure….I give you….Cluckzilla (insert applause here)

 

I shared this post on the Backyard Farming Connection Hop #85!