Saturday, February 22, 2014

Of Rain and Roosters

      Yesterday we started really warming up - it is in the forties and everything is melting. This makes for interesting times in our barn, but more about that later.
      The mystery of the bloody cock's comb has been solved.  My daughter and husband told me it was probably the hens.  Apparently at least one of them will sit on the ramp leading into the coop, and when Snowy (the rooster) walks by, she will peck at his comb. He is literally being hen pecked.  I am wondering if he may have not even realized it, because with the weather we have been having, it looks like the edge of his comb may have suffered from frostbite.
     Now I was feeling sorry for Snowy until yesterday morning.  My youngest son, who is 8, went into the run with some treats for the chickens, and they all came over and ate from his hand and from the bowl.  Then, after having eaten, Snowy walked away, then turned around, and squawking furiously flew at my son, spurs extended and tried to scratch him.  Had he not been wearing a winter coat, Snowy would have succeeded. As it was, the darn bird frightened him to tears, and this is not a child who cries easily.  He was scared but also felt a bit betrayed, I think, because he looked at me and said, "But I was just feeding him.  He was eating the treats.  Why would he do that?"
     Snowy has been running at my husband quite frequently, and I assure you that if he keeps it up, he will be finding another home, or end up in a pot.  We never wanted a rooster, but kept him because he was so pretty and we hoped he might keep the hens safe from any rodents.  This new aggression, however, is beyond my tolerance.  He is walking a very fine line.
     Now to the rain.  Along with the warmer temperatures, we got some  rain last night.  When putting the chickens to bed las night, we found a couple of inches of water in the low part of the barn.  This morning it was a couple of inches in a fair amount of the barn.  This evening,  the entire barn, except for  the section where the chickens' run is, was covered with anywhere from 2 to 6 1/2 inches of water. (Yes, I measured.) The rain and melting snow are all flowing into the barn.  Part of it is expected - this is a poor design for  the area it sits on.  However, prior to our buying the place, another prospective buyer insisted the barn be "cleaned out" before she buy it.  Instead of using a backblade and scraping out  an even floor, they hired some local kids who dug it out with shovels, leaving many areas well below the level  of the surrounding ground, making a perfect  place for the water to stand.   The only reason the coop has dry areas is it sits a little higher, and I have been shoveling composted manure/hay/dirt from the run in and making little dikes all around the run.
     Tomorrow after getting one child to a snow tubing/water part date, and another to a birthday party, I suspect I will be buying a sump pump of some sort and/or bailing out the barn.  Funny, I never thought I'd put bailing and barn in the same sentence!
      At least my dear husband will be home - he missed all this fun as he was taking our daughter to visit some colleges she is interested in.  He had his own fun, however, when he blew a tire coming up from PA.  Ah well, as they say, "It never rains, but it pours." Off to dry out my boots!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Blood on the rooster

   Snowing this morning.  Folks are grumbling, but I can't help it - I love it.  I am a winter baby, and snow is my element.  Give me cold temps, and huge sweaters to burrow into and I am a happy girl!
    Brought water to the farm for the chickens.  I always put the scraps in their bowl in the run before letting them out of the coop.  Less confusion for them, less time for Snowy, the rooster, to think he might not like me today.  He hates my husband, and tries to attack him at any opportunity.  I do not need that.  When I opened the door to the run, they all came scrambling out.  I cleaned and filled the waterer, and filled the feeder.  Checked for eggs - none.  They have started laying in the afternoon.
    Looked back at the run and noticed blood spots in the treat bowl.  Hmm.  Checked all the hens, and saw a blood spot on the face of one.  Okay, maybe somebody pecked her.  Not really worried.  Then I saw Snowy.  He had blood dripping from his comb down onto his face.  He has a really lovely high comb, and it looks like he nicked the dagging on the top of his comb.  There was little to do for him,  but watch and hope it clots.  None of the hens will bother him - he is several inches taller, quite a bit heavier, and a whole lot meaner than any of them, so now we let nature take its course.
    Always something new for me to learn - including when to let things alone.

Monday, February 17, 2014

one of those mornings

       Yesterday's foray into the barn was not thrilling.  It was chilly.  Not wicked freezing cold, but 10 degrees or so.   I brought the chickens their scraps - they got left overs from last night's dinner - salad and left over spaghetti - their favorites.  As they were busy scrambling for the best bits, I filled the feeder and grabbed the waterer to change out the water.  I dumped the messy water and went to the water spigot to find it was pretty well frozen in place.  After a great deal of grunting and lifting, I managed to break the grip of the cold and lift the handle.  Nothing.  I pushed it up further.  Nothing  still.
       Damn! SOoo, with my father's influence in my heart, and the pocket knife he gave me for my 14th birthday in my pocket, I looked for a quick solution.  I found an empty milk jug on the table, cut off the top to make a scoop, then tried to open the door to the paddock.  The clasp on the chain was frozen solid.  After working on it for a bit, it moved enough to release the chain.  I stood up, and banged my head on the metal wall bracket. Ouch!  I went outside and filled the waterer with snow.  I figured that between the lamp in the coop and the heater that keeps the waterer from freezing in the winter, it would melt.
    I drove back to the house and came back with  a couple of gallons of fresh water and the hairdryer.  The birds were happy for the water, as the snow was not yet melting.  I stood for a while trying to melt the pipe from the ground up towards the handle of the hydrant, but in vain. Today my husband is researching the best way to fix and prevent the problem.
     Some mornings are going to be like this - frozen water, banged up head, and no eggs.   However, last night, under the nearly full moon, we gathered 8 eggs and then stood looking at the moon over the high pasture - it all balances out in the end.