The Three Little Bitties…whose mother sleeps in a tree at night

"chicks must be gathered up in the evening to prevent preditors from eating them
There used to be seven, how we have three.

These are the three little chickies that must be gathered up every night as the sun goes down because their mama flies up into a tree, leaving them prey to the foxes and opossums that have begun to prowl the buck shed and old milker shed since we moved the milkers up closer to the house and their guard dog came with them.  I didn’t realize how many species of sharp-toothed wildlife Malachi was keeping at bay at night with his barking and patrolling the fenceline until we moved him out of that area.  Now he and the milking girls have a much bigger pasture but the poor chickens have been left unguarded.

All the chickens are free range, but at one time I kept them locked in a yard with a shed until the baby goats tore up the chicken wire run.  (Chicken wire and goats do NOT mix!)  The chickens still roost near the old shed, but use the trees now and not the shed and I can’t seem to talk them into roosting in the old milker shed at night…which is nearly predator proof.

So, baby chicks have to start fending for themselves just as soon as they are feathered and their mama’s think they should be able to jump up into the trees with them.  It happens with every clutch of chicks without casualties.  Until now.

So, for a while I get gather them up at around 5:30pm, which is when mama hen jumps into a tree, and bring them up to the house for a safe nights sleep.


There Is A Possum In The Hen House!

Last night I was outside feeding the critters just a little after 6pm, which, at this time of year, means I’m feeding in the dark.  I don’t mind feeding in the dark, or even milking then either.  I wear a headlamp and we have a big yard light that lights up the front part of the milkers pasture.  The boys and the horses, however, are completely in the dark.

Down the hill a ways, at the edge of the woods, are the buck shed, the old milker shed, and the shed I would really like the chickens to sleep in at night.  But they prefer the trees.  All except mama hen.  She insists on sleeping with her babies in the buck shed, in a pile of hay in the corner.

I have been watched by a pair of foxes on several occasions while feeding the horses, so for several nights I was picking up mama hen and her chicks and bringing them up to the house at night.  One night I forgot and the next morning mama hen was out with all 7 of her babies, so after that I just left them in the buck shed at night.  I figured the foxes were not really that hungry.

Three nights ago Chloe, our “road kill” puppy was barking frantically on the front porch.  I put on my bathrobe and went to see what she was barking at.  There was a small, shiny, healthy-looking possum behind her dog crate on the porch.  I got a stick and poked it out of there and it ran off.  It must have ran past the sleeping mama chick and her bitties because the next morning there was one less.  But, I didn’t think about the possum.  Until last night.

While I was outside, I heard the chicks suddenly start screeching.  I ran down the hill as fast as I could, yelling all the way, hoping whatever was getting the chicks would drop them and run.  By the time I got down there I had two dead chicks.  That same little slick and shiny possum was sitting in the corner of the buck shed looking at me, with a dead chick in his mouth.

I got a stick and ran him off and went outside to gather up the rest of the chicks.  The three that were left were all huddled together outside near a tree branch laying on the ground and were only too happy to let me gather them up.  Where was mama chicken?  UP IN A TREE!

After I gathered the chicks I noticed Chloe was barking frantically outside the fence. I knew she was barking at the possum so I yelled to her to “kill it”.   As I started up the hill I saw that the possum had decided to play dead and Chloe was pulling on its tail.  I watched it for a minute.  Its mouth was open and I could see a whole lot of really sharp teeth.  It wasn’t very good at playing dead.  It kept twitching, and when Chloe would back off it would open its eyes a little and look around, closing it’s lips over its teeth.  When Chloe would poke it, it would smile again, showing its teeth and close it’s eyes.

I had been hoping Chloe would kill it, but when I saw the size of those teeth and how many there were and how sharp they were, I told her she better leave it alone.

This morning, mama hen was at the front door, sqwaking about her chicks that were inside a hay-filled cat carrier locked in Chloe’s dog crate on the front porch.  I let them out and she immediately ran off with them, not even stopping for the food and water I had put down for her and the chicks.

What an ungrateful hen!  She would have let that possum have every one of her babies if I had not intervened.  I guess chickens really are one of the dumbest animals alive.  And most maddening to me!

Shantara Acres Farm Blog is One Year Old!

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my very first post.

It was actually a year yesterday, the 23rd.  We were busy working outside and I didn’t get time to post it then.

We were working on turning one of those old barns made out of logs with a roof that’s much too big and heavy into a chicken house.  It’s probably about 12 feet wide by 16 feet long, with plenty of room for everything a chicken could need.  We had been using it to store old fence boards and other things we had torn down, but we think it would be better used as a chicken house.

Now we just have to talk the chickens into staying inside at night.  The house has an electrified chicken yard around it, but just before dusk all the chickens started flying the coop and doing what they always do, roosting in trees.

I haven’t given up.

I’ll try again over the weekend.

Right now we’re waiting on a load of 8 round bales to be delivered.  They weigh about 400 pounds each and we go through 2 a week.  Finding someone to deliver them to us was a true blessing, because before that I was having to go get hay every week. Our truck can’t haul a months worth.

Well, gotta get my hat and coat and get outside.  I wish everyone a very merry Christmas!  We’re expecting snow, are you?

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These fireworks were all photoed at a local fi...
Image via Wikipedia

Happy 5th of July.  It’s my daughters 19th Birthday.  Happy Birthday Shannon!

Besides just being the birthday of my daughter, it’s also a GREAT day for a couple of other reasons.  Yesterday I got home kind of late from trimming horses….around 7pm.  I wanted to make sure I got home and got chores finished before firework time.  We live about 1 mile up the road from the only local fireworks display in the area and it’s a big deal here.  The horses had never been that close to any fireworks so I wanted to be sure and be here to keep an eye on them.

Well, I got here while it was still light.  CG had hot dogs and hamburgers ready on the grill…nope now raw burgers, but hey, it’s the fourth.  I was STARVING!  We ate dinner and then went out to do chores.  I was milking the last goat…and the sky was still light, when the fireworks started going off.

I got Mikey milked…no feet in the bucket either despite all the sudden noise, and CG was just giving the horses hay then too.  They ran around a little, but once he threw out their hay, they settled right down and ate without incident.  Except Caritas.  He’s in his own paddock and he did NOT like the noise.  We could only see a little of the firework lights.  They were kind of off down through the woods and were just barely visible through the trees, but we could hear them well.

As I was coming up from milking CG asked if I had seen Malachi, which I had not.  He had saw him running across the yard when the fireworks started. We called and called.  No Malachi.  We finished chores and then CG took the truck out looking for him up and down the road. The traffic was crazy.  This is a quiet road, but on the forth, there are hundreds of cars driving up and down the road and some of them are driving very, very fast, and some of the drivers are drunk.  We worried about our dog.

While CG was looking for Malachi, I checked on my guinea chicks.  They seemed kind of quiet.  When I looked in their pen, I saw one of my babies hanging upside down from a fold in the chicken wire, and instead of being six chicks, there were only 3.

I quickly got the one chick disentangled and brought all three of them inside.  We decided it was that possum that had been visiting us that must have pulled the other three chicks out of the pen the night before.  I had been in too big of a hurry yesterday morning to check on them.

I was broken hearted because I loved my little guineas’ and always hate it when something bad happens to things.

Well, I went to bed around midnight and fell asleep, only to be awakened about 30 minutes later by CG who wanted me to come out and look at Amira…plus Malachi had come home!    Amira, who had had a colic episode a couple of weeks ago, turned out to be fine.  CG had been outside calling Malachi and he said all of a sudden the big white dog came running up out of the woods.  We’d been calling him for 3 or 4 hours.  He must have ran a long way.  Poor thing.  We didn’t even think about tying him up or putting  him in the goat pen for the duration of the display. But, we were happy, and he was happy to be back home and promptly finished his half-eaten dinner.

This morning I got up  and looked out the window like I always do to check on the horses.  There, out in the pasture, were my three little GUINEA CHICKS.  They were pecking and digging around in the dirt and were happy as could be!  My little babies hadn’t got eaten by a possum!  I don’t know where they had been hiding, I had looked everywhere I could think of  with no luck.  But there they were.  The hard part was catching them, but I got it done and they are all inside the house until I can get their pen fortified.


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Dog + Cat = Cute

As you can tell, Malachai LOVES the kittens.  He loves the two  grown cats too.  He also loves the goats, the horses, the chickens, and us.  Oh, and he loves his Labrador friend, Onyx, too.

However, he does NOT love the pack of 6 dogs that visits our farm and all the other farms in the neighborhood every single night right before we go to bed.  All by himself he chases off that pack of beagles, toothless hounds, terriers and mutts.

Yep, he keeps us safe.  And all 12 chickens and all the baby goats can sleep peacefully at night, right after Malachai stops barking…which is somewhere around 3am…almost exactly the same time that the roosters begin crowing in earnest.

Yep, sometimes we do get so tired we can sleep through all the nightly ruckus.  It’s work though.

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Foxes, Dumb Chickens, and a GREAT market day!

Red Fox
Image by bbusschots via Flickr

Yesterday I was on my way to the market when CG called and told me I had just missed a lot of excitement!  It seems that a big red fox had been hiding in the woods, and made a go at the chickens as they came down from the trees in the early morning hours!  They whole farm set up quite a ruckus, scaring the pony and the goats and the chickens were sqawking like crazy.

The fox stood right out in the middle of the pasture and looked at CG before running back into the woods.  We still don’t know if he got a chicken or not.

Last Sat. I was milking early, before the market and heard a terrible ruckus out in the woods with the chickens making all sorts of noise.  I figured something had gotten one of them, but the brush is so thick there is no way to see down into the woods or even get through in many places.

So, I guess we know what it is now.  We just have to figure out what to do about it.  We’ve got a live trap and plan to try that first.  Somehow I think we’ll catch more cats than foxes, but we’re going to give it a try.

I think it’s unrealistic to think we can set outside with a gun and wait to see it, let alone hit it without shooting any of our farm animals!

To say chickens are dumb is rather an understatement.  Soon as all the commotion died down, they were right back down in the woods digging around for whatever it is they find to eat out there.  There is plenty of food closer to the house, lots of grain etc.  I guess I better do a hen count.  So far I still have 12 babies, but they sleep pretty close to the house.

Yesterday I had a really good market day.  Lots of people came and looked at my soaps, with lots of people buying too!  I got to meet a lot of really interesting people…found out about a local bee club that I plan to join..yep, bees are next on our list of things to get into.

Besides all that fun stuff, CG dug me a garden!  By hand!  I’m so excited!  It still needs a little fine-tuning, but the rest should be fairly easy now that he’s got the top turned over.  Luckily the ground is still fairly soft.  And he didn’t do it a moment too soon.  I’ve got tons of tomatoes ready to go in the ground.

Hopefully we’ll have our heirloom tomatoes soon.  We’ll be taking them to the market too.  My tables are almost out of space!  Might need another one!

I wish you all a happy Sunday!

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