These hens have been free ranging all winter. As in they are loose in the barn so can come and go as they choose. On Tuesday morning they collectively left the barn. Done. I don’t know how they decide this, but suddenly they are all done with staying in the barn. Some went down to the field to visit the cows. Some wandered up to the house to visit me. They stay on my paths which are nicely dusted with hay. We don’t plow the lawn so have to carry all the hay down to the barn, which clearly Hades and his ladies appreciate.
The Fancy Banties Resting on a Beaver-Chewed Birch Log. William carried this chunk of wood almost a mile out of the woods. He loves to pick it up and toss it around to get a ‘workout’! William is eight.
Why don’t I have my camera handy when I need it most?
Last night my husband and I went out for a much-needed date. We left at 5:30 – too early for the chickens to come in from free-ranging – and got back at 9:30 – late enough that the chickens had put themselves into bed – all over the barn. A couple on top of the hay feeder, a couple up in the rafters, a few more along the top of Dizzy’s gate, one on the feedroom gate. And one turkey, Trixie, up on Bonniebelle’s gate. While I was in the barn a couple of chickens decided to find new roosting spots. A small black feather-footed hen that I call Mary and William calls Penguin rearranged herself on a low wall that divides Dizzy’s pen from Bonnie’s pen. For some reason this irked Bonnie. She gave poor Mary-Penguin a quick nose push into Dizzy’s pen.
Then Bonnie looked at me with mischief in her eyes and said ‘watch this!’
Her gate is pretty tall so she had to stretch her neck tall. She stretched, and stretched some more, and grabbed the turkey’s breast with her mouth and shook! The turkey pushed up onto tippy-toes and extracted her breast from Bonnie’s mouthing – leaving two wet white feather stuck on Bonnie. In perfect kiss shaped arches! Where was that camera!?
Bonnie – having no idea how ridiculous she looked – looked at me again – and I swear to god she laughed. Like any good parent does when one of their dear angels goes bad – I refused to laugh. I looked sternly at her and said ‘you are mean!’ – ‘and selfish – Trixie can sit on your gate!’
Bonnie promptly answered by reaching up and grabbing poor Trixie again and giving her a good shake. This time Trixie fell backward off the gate. Poor thing stood there clucking and cooing and wondering where she was going to sleep.
I gently shoo-d her into her coop – back to her own cozy bed.
When I came back from the coop, Bonniebelle stood looking at me with all-innocent who? me? eyes and one white feather on her bottom lip.
I gave her head a good scratching and laughed. Date or no date – the evening was Hers and she knew it!
Princess’s last chicks, dubbed Night and Galaxy, have never been accepted by the flock.
They live with the turkeys.
They have an escape route from the turkey pen to the barnyard.
As of yesterday they can escape the turkey pen but not reenter it.
This is the problem with wire escape routes.
I just staged their re-entry to the turkey pen because the Ploska Twins were chasing them and pulling their feathers.
After this tussle I went to tend to Princess and her new brood.
The ‘nursery’ is set up with heating lamp, cage for night time safety, room to roam inside for the whole brood, and an escape route for Princess to get out when she wants to have her dirt bath and visits with her girlfriends.
I kept Night and Galaxy in the nursery for a long time as it was cold out and predators at their hungriest.
Clearly there was a flaw in this plan as Princess and the rest of the flock have not accepted them.
All this to say that I decided to let the chicks out of the nursery today.
FACTS: Lovely warm day. Milked out two gallons for Huckleberry, a little shy of two gallons for me. Huckleberry broke gate between stall and hall.
Poor Princess is so conflicted these days. She hatched out two lovely, black chicks a few weeks ago and is now reassessing her life. On Monday she began to wander off for a couple of minutes, then she’d hurry back and tend to her babies. Now she is leaving them all day and trying to re-establish her role in the flock. The other hens are not letting her eat with them- the term hen-pecked is well founded. These ladies can be terribly un-lady-like. The last two nights Princess has roosted in the barn rafters near the other hens but when when I come in to the barn at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. to do my evening milking she jumps down and flutters around me squawking loudly. I’ve interpreted this to mean that she wants to go to her babies so have put her in their pen. She fusses over them, drinks deeply, eats furiously, stretches out under the heating lamp, and seems very content, but I am not sure I should be putting her in with them if she really wants to rejoin the general flock. She could get in with her chicks if she wanted to, but she is clearly not settled in the barn without them. I’d prefer her stay with the chicks for the night so they are warmer but I’d also like to see her happy with her old friends. I wish she could talk, not just squawk! They say actions speak louder than words, but when the last word is a squawk…..