Thursday, June 30, 2005

Life With the Girls.

We seem to have settled down into a routine. The girls are sleeping in the rafters, which is where they want to be, and we just come out in the morning and evening to open & close the door between the henhouse and the run. We also let them run around the garden for a little while in the early evening. Things seem absolutely secure--well, OK, I did have a nightmare about a raccoon and installed a more critter-proof latch on the door to the run--but really, there have been no attempts at break-ins and we have no more chicken coop construction projects on the horizon.

In about another month, we start adding calcium to their diet in anticipation of egg-laying time. Hoping to have some eggs in August.

Abigail and Eleanor are a bit stand-offish, but Dolley's still quite friendly and Bess is all over us all the time. I'll kneel down to offer them some scratch, and the other three will initially run off (I swear it's an instinctual chicken response to run from everything, even the person who raised you and is about to hand you food, and as soon as they do it they seem to wonder why and run right back), but Bess always runs right up to us, ready for anything. She's also the only one who seems interested in eating snails or slugs, which further endears her to us.

They also seem to be working on their pecking order--they run up to each other and sort of puff out their feathers and bump chests, which I suppose is quite menacing if you're another chicken but it just looks silly to us. And they have been getting to know Loretta (LeRoy always disappears when the chickens come out to play), walking right up to him as he lays on the garden path watching them warily, and even chasing him a bit. Poor cat. How humiliating to be chased around by a three month old chicken. Will be interesting to see how their relationship evolves over the summer.

Bird butts.

Bedtime for the chickens. Left to right: Dolley, Bess, Abigail, Eleanor. All about three months old. As you can see, they are intensely curious about the camera.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Eleanor going after sweet pea vines.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Little Bess in her favorite spot.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dolley making a speech.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Went to the fair today and checked out the henhouse. Saw no Araucanas, but a few Rhode Island Reds and Wyandottes. We both loved the little bantams and feel certain we could get away with raising a couple of those in a Manhattan apartment someday.

A face only a mother could love.

Eleanor in the future?

A grown-up version of Abigail?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Well, we all made it through the night. Those silly birds spent the night not on the nice roomy rafter in the middle of the henhouse, but on a narrow strip of wood right above the door. That can't be comfortable.

Seriously, girls--this is where you want to sleep?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Fables of the Reconstruction

Work on the henhouse continues. I have long ago stopped adding up the costs. The latest changes are:

1. A toe guard. It turns out that there are gaps between the boards on the wood floor that are big enough for their little legs to slip through. The floor ends rather suddenly mid-way through the henhouse, then there's a step down to the concrete floor, and it was at that edge where Dolley's leg got caught, and thank goodness I was there because she let out the most pitiful scream anyone has ever heard and scared the other chickens half to death. So we nailed a board along the edge to prevent their legs from getting caught.

2. A hardware cloth screen inside the roof. The roof is made of old wavy plastic greenhouse stuff, and it seems like a vulnerable point where critters could get in. We have been locking the girls up each night in The Vault, a secure little wooden box with a door that locks shut, where they are absolutely safe. First, it is very unlikely something could get into the henhouse, and if they did, they wouldn't be able to get in the Vault.

There are several problems with this arrangement, however.

First, they don't want to sleep there. They want to sleep in the rafters up by the roof. That's where they put themselves every night, and every night we have to move their sleepy warm little bodies to the Vault and endure great protests. (When Scott told his grandfather, who always had chickens around as a kid, about our arrangement, he said, "Well, of course they don't want to sleep in a box. What are you doing putting them in a box? They're chickens. They want to roost up high.")

Second, we feel compelled to get up quite early and let them out. It doesn't seem fair to loll around in bed until nine while they are locked up with only a tiny amount of food or water. Plus, they're birds. They like to be up and about in the morning.

Third, when we go out of town, we'd have to have the pet sitter come twice a day, once at night to lock them up and once early in the morning to let them out. This way, we can just keep them in the henhouse when we're gone and the pet sitter can come once a day to let them out for a little while and feed them.

So we lined the ceiling with this sturdy mesh stuff and boy, was it a hassle. Lots of nailing over your head, lots of shoving unwieldy mesh into odd little corners, etc. I am worn out. I hope the girls appreciate all that we do for them.

Tonight, then will be their first night to sleep in the rafters. The henhouse has solid floors, wire mesh buried belowground to prevent tunnelers, mesh-lined ceiling, etc., but I still think having them sleep on the rail at the foot of our bed would be the best option. Have been unable to convince Scott, however.

So we'll see if I am able to get through the night without sneaking outside, taking them down from their nice comfortable rafter, and locking them up for one last night.

Dolley and the toe guard.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Just another day in the henhouse.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The farm--an aerial view from the attic. Berries and flowers, compost and chickens. It's raining today and the chickens are quite grumpy about it. Just wait until they find out what winter is like. We may end up putting a roof over the run after all, just so they can be outside a bit more when it rains (ah, the costs of owning four chickens continues to rise...)

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Glamorous Life of a Magazine Editor.

A business meeting, Humboldt County style.

Add another four pages? Wait, let me ask the chicken.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

The birds continue to settle down every night in the rafters-that-are-not-their-bed.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

How To Get a Chicken To Pose For the Camera

Step 1: Bribe her with sweet pea leaves.

Step 2: Grab her in mid-bite.

Step 3: Tell her she's a silly bird.

Step 4: Smile for the camera.