Some new chickens to eat off of

Chicken portrait placemats

My first set of chicken-themed place mats has been quite popular so I’ve created two more sets featuring hens and roosters that hang out at Bourbon, Dogs and Art. You can order them through the online store or if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by!

These are 12×16 indoor/outdoor place mats, perfect for picnic tables, wipe clean with a sponge. The images are stylized in a sort of Japanese woodcut manner.

chicken-set-2-placemats

Chickens on the rocks

Chickens on the rocks

Haven’t done any chicken updates for a while. Here’s a bunch of them at 27 weeks. (Not counting Wooster the Rooster who’s around three years old.) They all seem to be liberals committed to population control since they don’t seem to have any interest in laying eggs yet. They think their purpose is to eat and pose.

 

Exit Strategies, Squirrel Simulators, and Cell Phone Pictures

Irene with Dead SquirrelIt all happened very quickly.

Tweetsie’s been gone for a few days and this afternoon she texted me that she wanted to see some updated photos of our young chicks. So after finishing a task, I grabbed my iPhone and headed for the chicken pen, followed by Gerret and Maggie. Irene was off on her own somewhere.

As I approached I saw a squirrel inside the pen chowing down on the chicken food. Happens all day everyday. Not much I can do about it.

As per normal, the squirrel saw me and immediately bolted, but apparently his lizard brain took over and he was making all the wrong decisions. Our chicken pen consists of 2”x4” woven wire which is plenty of space for a squirrel to slip through. But because we have young chicks in the pen right now that are equally capable of slipping  through the wire, we’ve put up a two-foot-high piece of plastic netting around the bottom of the pen to keep the chicks in.

So the squirrel, seeing me coming with two dogs in tow, bolts, but he’s on the ground and he bolts right into the netting. So he turns and runs the opposite direction and also bolts into the netting.

Now The Gerret and Maggie have been here for four years and they long ago realized the futility of trying to catch squirrels and are generally blind to their existence. (Whereas Irene, being relatively new, chases squirrels like a greyhound after a mechanical squirrel. She also chases frogs and various bugs.)

Chick Pen

Chicken Pen Scene of the Crime

In this particular instance the dogs perceive that this particular squirrel is at a disadvantage and perhaps a bit panicked. Their dog-hunting instinct kicks in. They rush to the coop and circle, racing back and forth to block every effort by the squirrel to escape.

Now to be honest, if I had thought the squirrel was actually in any danger whatsoever, I would have put a halt to it. But since around here the squirrels ALWAYS win, I thought it might be a learning experience for this particular squirrel, to have to suffer just a bit of anxiety before he inevitably climbed up the fence, went over the top and skipped over to the 80-foot poplar, from whence he would cackle insults to the dogs and climb up into the tall branches the way squirrels do.

But this particular squirrel made the wrong choice. Instead of going up, he went down. He found a loose spot at the bottom of the fence and decided to scoot under it. I was standing right there. He was squirrel fast, but still, when you have to flatten out and pull yourself under a barrier, it slows you down.

And so it happened. Before I could even start to analyze the situation, it was over. The brief loss of momentum in getting under the fence cost the squirrel his life. Maggie rushed to intercept, grabbed the squirrel in her mouth and did that primal death-snap head twist thing that dogs do to victims and toys.

And typical of domestic dogs, having killed, they’re no longer interested. The Gerret ran over to offer assistance, but when he realized that Maggie had handled this on her own, they both wandered away leaving the corpse, like turds in a dog park, for the human to deal with.

But wait.

Attracted by the commotion, Irene has now arrived on the scene.

To my knowledge Irene has not yet had a close encounter of the third kind with a squirrel. She has chased them with abandon, but not with success. She has several squeaky toys that approximate a squirrel and that she kills on a daily basis and then buries in the guest bedroom, but they never stop squeaking.

So Irene sees the dead squirrel.

Like anything else Irene sees that she thinks The Gerret or Maggie might have the slightest interest in, Irene takes immediate ownership. She grabs the corpse like one of her stuffed toys and dares anyone else to try to take it.

She shakes it, much like Maggie did, but with a lack of conviction, like this was just another toy. Then she chomps on it, trying to make it squeak. No luck.

She heads for the dog door into the house, where, I realize, she’s planning to bury the dead squirrel in the guest bedroom. I dissuade her of that idea even as I’m unable to separate her from the corpse.

She runs off as I head back down to my office. This strikes a chord for Irene since my office is the second best place to bury toys.

When I won’t let her come in the office with the dead squirrel in her mouth, she retreats. She backs a few yards away from the door and sets the squirrel down. She nuzzles it and sniffs it and seems generally confused since she’s always been allowed to bring her dog toys into the office.

I approach her (see the photo at the top) as she stands guard over the dead squirrel. I’m surprised to note that while she sits passively next to the squirrel corpse, she’s shivering like she’s really frightened. I used the opportunity to remove the squirrel from the playing field and pet Irene to relieve her discomfort, but I’m really at a loss to explain her behavior. What’s she scared of? That the squirrel is dead? That she can’t bring it into the office? That she broke the squeaky thing inside? That Gerret and Maggie show no interest whatsoever? That I show unusual interest in a dog toy?

I don’t know.

End of story.

. . .

So are there lessons to be learned? Certainly.

For the squirrel, it’s obviously a cautionary tale about making a recklessly aggressive move without a carefully thought-out exit strategy.

For Irene, she has to come to grips with the difference between an Xbox Squirrel Simulator and a potential felony.

And me? I’ve got to realize that having the ability to take a picture with my cell phone and instantly message it to someone 3000 miles away can result in significant collateral damage, the blame for which I’m not immune.

As for The Gerret and Maggie, they’re all like, “Hey, we’re dogs. That’s how we roll.”

Urban Development in Fowladelphia

Chicken coop

Spent the weekend building a new chicken coop to accommodate the local population explosion. Should have been doing my taxes, but priorities are priorities. It would be done (sans paint) if I’d actually had the door hinges I thought I had when I drove to town for all the other hardware and supplies. On Friday. And again of Saturday. And again this morning. Trip to town on the agenda for tomorrow.

I’m a strong believer that linoleum on the floor is an essential part of a chicken coop just to ease cleanup, but after putting in this black/white pattern I’m suddenly remembering Temple Grandin’s “Animals in Translation” and her contentions about various animals being panicked by extreme colors or patterns. I figure we’ll just have to put a lot of pine shavings on the floor to compensate.

There’s a whole nesting box attachment that goes on the front, but I’m not going to attach it until I’ve moved it into place.

Given my structurally minimalist design requirements and scrap usage, the coop will end up costing maybe $120. Add in gas for the multiple trips to the big box lumber stores to pick up the stuff I forgot the last time and the cost doubles.

Anyway, this should house our new mail-order flock. It’s a good size for about a dozen adult chickens so I’m figuring it will be plenty of room for 23* pre-adolescent chicks for the time being.

BTW – We will be offering healthy, happy, soon to be laying (or crowing) adolescent chicks in the near future if you’re in the mood.

* Yes, we used to have 24 chicks but we lost one yesterday. Well, not really lost. Not sure what happened but if it was human you’d guess it had a stroke. No sense of balance. Could only lay on one side. So all the other chicks were picking on it as chicks are wont to do. We gave it a day of isolation triage, but it only seemed to be in increasing pain with no indications of recovery so I had to euthanize it. Not the highlight of my day.

Sam teaches scratch and peck

Here’s the latest paparazzi video of Sam and her chicks including Spinal Tap Tara. There’s also a guest appearance from Dave. Last summer we got Sam and Dave together as adolescents and weren’t sure of gender for a long time. (Ergo the names. We were prepared for them to be Samantha and Davida.) They were definitely bonded from day one. Over time they joined the larger flock but always hung together. Dave’s been disconsolate ever since Sam went broody.

Also deserving some mention and some props is Wooster. Judging from the hatched egg shells, Sam’s chicks are from at least three different hens, but there’s only one cock around these parts. Right now all the chicks look very similar, which has to suggest that Wooster is dominating the gene pool, since the various moms don’t look anything alike.

Wooster is a beast of a rooster. Note those back claws on his feet. He wakes everyone up around five in the morning, but has an eagle eye for predatory hawks and owls and we’ve never lost a hen on his watch. (Have to give a shout out to Rosely and Erica who gave us the stud.)

Wooster the Rooster

Wooster the Rooster

Hot Chicks learn to drink

Two chicks

Two chicks posing for photographers

So while we got Sam and her chicks in one pasture, the mail order hot chicks (eight days older) are quickly taking over the South Forty. Here’s a couple pictured, when they were a week old and doubled in size, but they’re even bigger now. The one on the left is an Ameraucana, the one on the right is an Egyptian Fayoumi. The former is an “Easter Egg” chicken that lays blue/green eggs (assuming it’s a hen). The Fayoumi is a heritage breed that we thought would be an interesting addition. You can Google this stuff if you need to know more.

We’ve had to move them out of the office and jury-rig a larger brooder (in the big yurt for those who know the place).

Chicks in yurt

The interesting part has been teaching them to drink. Or at least teaching them to drink out of a nipple. For the first five days we just had water in a shallow waterer, which works but requires constant attention since young chicks like to sit in, spill, and yes, shit in, their waterers. So we made a waterer out of a pail and these watering nipples we got online from a place called Farmtek. I was not convinced the chicks would be able to figure the new system out. Didn’t seem intuitive from a young chick perspective to me.

So I installed the nipple waterer and left their regular shallow waterer in place for about 12 hours.

The online forums suggested that because chicks are naturally curious, they’d discover the nipples and when they got rewarded with water they’d quickly figure it out. Apparently that’s true. The next morning I removed the shallow waterer and left them with nothing but the nipple waterer:

Of course they’re a bit spooked just because there’s a camera in the room. But you see how quickly they figure it out. After seeing this video, I figured the pail was actually placed a bit low, and raised higher so the chicks could drink tilt their heads up, making it easier to get a drink. They appreciated that.

P.S. – Yes, eventually I’ll get back to dogs, art and bourbon.

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