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God’s little creatures

My wife and I, to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, took a 2 week vacation.  We don’t normally take a full 2 weeks off, ever.  But, we did.  There were too many things to do before we left and some didn’t get done.  The important one, of enlarging and securing the chicken run was priority #1.  We didn’t know if any of our chicken sitters, (we had three sitters stopping by to check on our flock) would be brave enough to let them free-range for a bit.  So having a larger run for them was important to us.  Peter, our neighbor, did let them free-range a couple of times while it was his watch.  Thanks Peter.

Son, David, split the days with Peter and doesn’t think he will need eggs for a while.  Thanks Dave.

And my wife’s friend Robin stopped by as she could to bring them special treats.  Thanks Robin.

We were gone for 15 days and didn’t have easy internet access.  My wife had her phone, me, I’m a dinosaur, I need a keyboard and a large screen.  So, I went cold-turkey for 2 weeks, no blogging and no e-mail.  Actually we need to add 2 more days without internet service.  While we were away, a large piece of an oak tree came down on our service wires.  The electric company had repaired their wires but our Verizon service was still out.  All is working again.

Two weeks away was almost too much for the both of us, we were ready to go home and see how our chickens were doing.  They survived just fine.  We did come back to FALL,DSCF0262 the leaves have changed colors and are falling, the nights are getting colder and the days are getting shorter.  The garden is winding down for the season and I have been letting the ladies and Jack into the gardens to do their fall clean-up.DSCF0261

They are happy chickens, the garden is full of earthworms, grubs and the soil is easy digging. They first stuff themselves on the worms and grubs before moving on to the salad.  Carrot greens, kale and turnip greens are their favorites.

I played in my strawberry bed today.  This bed is roughly 3′ by 12′ and divided into four  3′ by 3′ sections with a screened cover.  Those of you who read this blog know that this setup hasn’t been very successful.  I am still hopeful.   The screen cover protects the plants from the deer and keeps the chipmunks away from the ripe berries, (should I ever get any).  BUT, this cover also protects the grubs from birds, chickens, skunks and anything else that may eat them and they are thriving.  So much so that they will eat all of the strawberry plants roots and the plant dies.  Three of the sections are doing poorly so I removed the cover, pulled a few weeds and cultivated around the plants.  The grubs were plentiful.  The picture is of the grubs that I picked from just one of the sections and I know I didn’t get all of them.DSCF0250

DSCF0252

strawberry bed

DSCF0253

strawberry bed

I need to figure out how to let my chickens into the strawberry bed without them digging up the plants.  Suggestions anyone??

I did a rough draft of this post in my backyard, sitting in a lawn chair, in front of my garden watching my helpers do their fall cleanup.  A very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.  Well, some of it.

It is good to be home and the chickens missed us.  They put this sign up on their run.

DSCF0241

Ed

The run expansion is finished.

I put 2″ X 3″ wire fencing on the top of the run, it came with black plastic coating.  I don’t know if the hawks will see the fencing or just look through it.  If they try to fly through it, well , should be interesting.

I dug a trench around the chain link dog run sections and wired 3′ wide chicken wire 18″ up on the chain link and 18″ into the trench.  Then I partially filled the trench with small rocks ( New England grows small rocks and I have a pile that I have collected over the years) before filling in the rest with dirt.  This should discourage any digging under by predators.  This is why I am sore, ditch digging is for younger people.  I dug about 45 feet of trench.

The 2 doors, one on the original run and the one on the expanded run latch at the same place roughly, where the 2 sections are 90 degrees to each other.  So when you open both doors out and hook them together opened, they form a chain link wall allowing the chickens to roam from the old run into the new run without getting loose.  This will allow us to separate the chickens or introduce new chickens in a controlled way.  I already locked them in the expanded run while I cleaned out the old run.  Worked great.    I placed a salvaged wire mesh for a top over this and we are done.

2 X 3s holding up the wire fencing on the top of the run

2 X 3s holding up the wire fencing on the top of the run

trenching with rocks and chicken wire
trenching with rocks and chicken wire

completed section

completed section

trenching

trenching

in the background you can see how the doors are when opened.

in the background you can see how the doors are when opened.

Ed

 

After the fox and hawk attacks on my chickens, I’ve started with the run expansion.  This will give the ladies and Jack more space since they aren’t getting the free-range time that they used to.

September 5th 2013

September 5th 2013

The left side with the door is the original run, the chickens are all in the new run exploring.

From the side.

From the side.

I still have to put fencing over the top and bury chicken wire in the ground all the way around, then it will be secure.

But it is a good start.

Ed

 

I let the chickens out yesterday at noon, went in and had my lunch, then checked on the chickens and went back in.  Then they started squawking.  My wife and I ran out, a fox had one of the girls, Miny, pinned to the ground.  We must have scared the fox enough because Miny broke free.  I then was down from the deck, saw 2 chickens running behind the run with the fox right behind.  I started screaming and running after them.  The fox didn’t seem to care that this mad-man was closing in on him.  He finally turned and saw me but just trotted off keeping ahead of me. He’s gone into the woods, I’m trying to catch my breath and waiting for my heart to stop pounding.

I can’t take this DRAMA.  So, the chickens are in lock-down.  I’ve been very lucky, 3 recent attacks and everyone is still here.  BUT, I need to be much more protective.  I am about to go from being known as “that guy down the street that has chickens” to ” that crazy guy down the street that stands watch over his chickens with a pitchfork in his hands”.  I’ve been called worse.

Miny is fine, lost some feathers.  I think I lost a couple of years off my life.

Ed

P.S.  Why didn’t Jack attack the fox??  I thought that was his job.  He does sound the alarm but rescuing the fair damsel, not so much.

Ini is fine. End of post.

Ini is fine.  She spent 4 days living in the Big house, getting homeopathic medicine twice a day and having her wound rinsed with a homeopathic solution 4 time a day.  It was my job to hold her while my wife forced 3 tablespoons full of medicine down her throat, an eyedropper full at a time.  Took about 30 minutes each time. How many directions can a chicken move her head??

Ini in the big house after Fox attack 8/7/13

Ini in the big house after Fox attack 8/7/13

Ini laid eggs 3 of the 4 days she was in the house. She is such an amazing creature.

After the fox attack, my chickens are getting less free-range time.  I now don’t let them out until almost noon and watch them like a hawk.  Well, not as good as a hawk.  Last Tuesday, Mini was attacked by a HAWK.

I let then out just before noon and went in for lunch. I’m eating my last cookie when Jack (my rooster) starts squawking very loudly.  I find him by the side of the house but no ladies.  From the pile of logs I have that need to be split comes the squawking of one of the ladies. As I run toward the pile a HAWK takes off.  I find Mini tucked into the pile squawking her head off.  Carefully I move some logs and get her out, take her to the run and she goes up into the coop and squats down in a corner.  I then went looking for the other 4 hens, can’t find them anywhere, there is a small pile of feathers by the wood pile but no ladies.  After a while Jack shows up with 3 of them, I’m missing Mo. She finally comes out of hiding, they are all safe.  Mini did come out later in the day and join everyone. She doesn’t have any wounds that we can see and is out acting like a chicken.

After the fox attack I was asked if I was rethinking my decision to free-range. Wasn’t then, I am now.  Plans are being made to increase the run from 72 square feet to 288 square feet. They can’t help it, they just taste like chicken.

Ed

I have TOO many things going on in my world, somethings have shifted to a lower rung.  My blogging is one of them, to my 3 faithful followers I apologize. I will try to update how my garden has been doing first.

These pictures were taken on July 28th, I meant to post sooner, just didn’t get to it. My gardens have suffered from lack of attention also, the weeds are larger than the tomato plants.

I harvested my garlic on July 28th and as usual it was very successful.

Garlic harvest 7/28/13

Garlic harvest 7/28/13

Beets needed to be thinned, this is a second planting, the first planting did not survive.  So this planting is in the other garden. (I have 2 main vegetable gardens on each side of the driveway).

Beets needing to be thinned

Beets needing to be thinned

This is old news now BUT back in July is was BIG.  I have ripe tomatoes.  I don’t have any pictures of my Black Cherry Tomatoes because I eat them before I’m out of the garden.  Maybe later on when there are more of them.

First tomato  8/28/13

First tomato 7/28/13

I also have tomato worms.

First Tomato worm 7/28/13

First Tomato worm 7/28/13

My first planting of lettuce has gone to seed and I have pulled them, maybe I planted too many, the wheelbarrow is pretty full.

Pulled bolted Lettuce 7/28/13

Pulled bolted Lettuce 7/28/13

I did get a picture of my Black Cherry Tomatoes. Actually this was my salad last week.

8/7/13

8/7/13

I missed 1 of the tomato worms and didn’t go looking for him until I noticed not only chewed leaves but the actual stocks of the plant were being eaten.  Found him.

Big Guy,  8/14/13

Big Guy, 8/14/13

That’s the update on the garden. Next post will be Ini’s update.

This is one of the things that I have been busy with, it challenged me and was a joy to work on.  It is a free-standing cabinet made in Walnut and Carpathian Elm Burl.  Very pleased with how it turned out.DSCF0002

Ed

 

 

When I decided to get chickens, I did a lot of reading,  I needed to learn a lot.  One of the things I saw mentioned many times was that if you have chickens, you need to be prepared to lose some to predators mainly.  I made a very secure coop and run for my chickens, my biggest fear was from hawks when they free-range.  I wasn’t too concerned about the four legged predators because I didn’t let them out until mid to late morning and they are not allowed out unless myself or my wife were home.  We didn’t stand watch over them but would check on them periodically .

Yesterday, Saturday, I was out working in the yard, the chickens were out a scratching and a pecking, my wife, Lil, was on the back deck watching us. About 11:00 am I went in for a drink, Lil, screamed and was running off the deck. I ran out and Lil said a fox had grabbed Ini.  There were a small pile of feathers by the screen house and I followed a trail of feathers into the woods and out back to the field, where I lost them.  Fox and Ini were gone.

Lil had secured the chickens in the run and had picked up the feathers. She told me later this was for the service.

Ini's feathers  8/3/13

Ini’s feathers 8/3/13

My chickens were a lot noisier before this attack, why didn’t I put them in the run??  They sensed something was wrong.  I’ve lost my first chicken at 16 months.  My wife and I were heart-broken.

Well, it is still Saturday and I have errands to do.  Drove downtown, didn’t even turn on the radio, just kept playing the morning over and over in my head.  Told a couple of people what had happened, Laura, who also has chickens was very sad for me.  As soon as I got home I went to the run to see how everyone was and one of the chickens is out, running around the run.  The door is closed, there are chickens inside, how did you get out?????  I’m ashamed to admit, but I have a hard time telling the ladies apart, I didn’t know who was out or why.  I lured her into the run with sunflower seeds and then counted heads.  SIX!!!!  1 rooster and 5 hens, INI IS BACK!!!  the fox didn’t get her, Lil’s scream must has scared the fox.

I yelled for Lil and we checked out Ini. She had a 3 to 4 inch long slice on her left side, it looked like just the skin had been cut open but she needed to be stitched together.  Lil sews beautiful quilts but din’t feel qualified to sew a chicken back together.  Me, out of the question,  so we took her to a vet. A holistic vet in the next town.  Dr Margo Ramon of MASH (Main St. Animal Services of Hopkinton)  her phone number is 508-435-4077. I don’t know which came first the phone number or the name.

Ini is home, stitched up and living in the big house for a few days till she heals.

Ini in the big house after the fox attack 8/3/13

Ini in the big house after the fox attack 8/3/13

Earlier in the day, Lil had asked me what my plans for the day were.  This was not what I planned.

Ed

 

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