Friday, December 12, 2008

Time Flies...

...when you're raising a puppy!

I hadn't realized it's been a month since my last post but the little dickens, now named Lyra (that's a constellation) has been quite a handful. Some of her antics include peeing on Luna's bed daily, following Luna and Rocket to Uncle Butch's house so that I have to fetch her back, and chewing up everything in sight. Perhaps next month I'll list some of the interesting items she's tasted.

But before I forget, here's a couple recent photos of her.

The wrestling photo is of her, Luna, and her great uncle Yogi. She really likes the big dogs but they would rather not be bothered with her. Luna is finally playing with her which makes Lyra extremely happy. I don't think Luna will have a problem when the puppy goes home with my mom and sister though.

Sounds like she's awake again, I have to go!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Sister's New Puppy

She's also my mom's. One of 8 poor little labradors owned by a sad excuse for a human being. I shan't go into more because it's a small town and you never know who reads these things, one of the reasons I don't use real names. Suffice to say, I paid his blood price and got what I think is the best of the bunch, at least as far as a temperament that would be great for my sister and mom. She's only 5 weeks old, but as I was in danger of losing her, my brother and I rescued her before something bad could happen.

She is settling in wonderfully though Rocket ignores her and Luna is afraid of her. If the puppy approaches her from behind Luna runs. Luna will now approach the puppy from the front but she would rather be elsewhere, at Uncle Butch's in fact, where she and Rocket both ran to before 8 am this morning.

How can any dog be afraid of this? The top photo was taken today, the one below, a week ago. I suppose Luna will get used to her, I hope so since she will be here till my sister and mom pick her up at Christmas time. It will be hard to give her up then but Luna and Rocket come first in my family.

I sure wouldn't mind adopting one of her siblings though.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Full Moon Rising?

No, it's a string ball!

Yes, you've heard of giant ones on display in far flung locations, there is probably one in the Guiness World record book but it's not important enough for me to check especially since I am not going for a record. I just have all these chicken feed bags and they're closed with a piece of string in a chain stitch. It occurred to me that I should use that string, seemed a shame to throw away. But what would I do with 2 foot pieces of string? Is it possible I have too much time on my hands?

So, here it is, my chicken feed bag string ball consisting of maybe 4 or 5 string pieces (already, I can't remember) about 0.75 inches in diameter. Maybe I'll update the blog in the future with its progress. Maybe not. I may find more interesting things to occupy myself.

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Sister's Shadow is Gone

My younger sister had to put her dog, Shadow, to sleep today. The vet figured it was probably a brain tumor that caused her to go downhill so quickly in a few short days. My sister, mom and brother were there with her at the end.

Shadow was raised by my sister and my mom from 2 days old when a Brittany Spaniel mother rejected her first litter of puppies. So Shadow never really knew she was a dog. She would sleep on the furniture, ask for people food and go everywhere with them. She'd even been out to visit me once for Christmas and they were planning to come this year.

Shadow loved a good belly rub and demanded it of anyone visiting. She'd walk right up to you and stand over your foot till you obliged.

When Shadow first met my puppy Rocket, she didn't know how to interact with another dog. Rocket would chase and Shadow would run away jumping on the sofa to escape from the furry brown ball of chaos. Once Rocket matured they got along fine and the 4 of us went on quite a few walks in the woods or around the neighborhood whenever I visited. But it seems only on one walk in the autumn of 2004 did I manage to snap a few good photos of Shadow (and Rocket) having fun.

Good bye old girl. We and the chipmunk on your back porch will miss you.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Guinea Returned, Too!

This afternoon the missing guinea hen showed up running frantically alongside the run fence wanting to get in. Unfortunately the rooster, the only free ranging bird, (to keep him from attacking the smaller birds) attacked and drove her off. I then chased the rooster into the pen to keep that from happening again, but 4 younger chickens escaped and ran amok for the rest of the day. But the guinea returned a couple hours later and I waited till dark before catching her and one of the chickens with a net while they settled down on a fence post for the night. The other 3 chickens I had already herded into the pen. Now all the poultry are incarcerated and not getting out again for a few days.

On the other hand, the stupid muscovies are back on the pond for the night even though they were investigating the duck pen during the day. It only takes one time for that stupid mink to come back and kill one, but you can't tell that to a duck.

She's Alive!

My chicken survived 25f temperatures, alone in the woods last night. I looked all over before dark when she did not turn up to go into the coop and as best as I could with a flashlight after dark. Being as she's brown, the leaves are brown and she was probably hiding from me, it was a pretty futile gesture. One of my purple guineas, just transferred to the coop from the garage that day also ran off (she wasn't supposed to be outside, but slipped out when I wasn't looking). This morning when I saw the heavy frost on the ground and the thermometer reading only 25 this morning I steeled myself for the worst.

First I let the flock into the run in hopes the sounds of her friends would bring them running. Since I couldn't see them anywhere inside the fence I went to the other side, deeper into the swamp. Within 10 minutes I jumped her up. I never even saw the chicken till I was on top of her and off we went for a ten minute romp through the downed trees and over roots and stumps till I cornered her trying to squeeze back through the field fence. I grabbed her and stuffed her back into the coop. She seems fine. Hopefully, the guinea will appear soon.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Little Surprise and More Photos

I was taking my neighbor up to the hospital to visit her husband Uncle Butch today and ended up bringing him home. This is his second homecoming, he came home last Friday for less than 48 hours, had to be rushed back with a bad kidney infection. Hopefully, he's on the mend at last, though he still needs that operation on one of his carotid arteries to clean out the plaque. We've got to wait two weeks before they can do that and hope he stays healthy till then. It will be a somewhat nervous wait for everyone.

I was looking through a few of my recent photos tonight and found another nice autumn foliage shot with a tiny little Rocket in the background. The dogs never stay still for the perfect shot, but it's still a nice picture.

Here's a shot of those same trees and their neighbors from the opposite side of the clearing. That's it for colorful tree photos, cedar swamps aren't known to have many trees other than cedars.

And for amusement, here's a picture of one of my Muscovy females who may have decided to move to Canada. As of today she is still residing in Michigan.

And in case anyone wanted to see a closeup of my chickens, here are a few golden laced Wyandottes (the blacker ones) and my buckeyes. They are about 10 weeks old in this photo.

This concludes another impromptu slide show of swamp life. I could throw in a really cool photo (I think) of Rocket and Luna but I'll save it for another day.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The October Animal Update

I don't know what else to call this because it's been weeks since my last visit to my blog.

It looks and feels like autumn is on the down slide toward winter now. We just experienced a few beautiful last days of 70ish temperatures and sunshine, The trees this year were gorgeous, the maples colored up magnificently, probably all that rain this year. So there was one good thing about the rain though it made my vegetable garden rot. (I never did get to harvest any zucchini!) But today it's cloudy off and on rainy and barely 56f. The leaves are dropping rapidly, those same maples are probably 90% bare now. The red oaks are turning color, too as are the poplars.

The chickens and guineas and ducks don't mind the weather. The watch the door like hawks, however, waiting to pounce on me whenever I try to go outside.
Sometimes, I don't quite succeed.

The guineas especially like to perch on my deck stairs and railings.

The chickens mostly hang out in the grass unless they see the guineas pouncing on me for food. At least 3 of my guineas outside, and one in the garage are making the "buck-wheat" sound indicating they are female. That's 4 out of 50. Hopefully, more will be broadcasting their status before it's time to thin out the herd (I know it's flock, but I like herd better).

Last week Hal and I butchered and froze 5 of the remaining rouen ducks. He tried to pluck 2 of them with his nifty drill-plucker that he made but the pin feathers

were so bad that he skinned the other 3. We hope it works much better on chickens and guineas. Others who have made one claim it does, at least on chickens. There are 2 rouens left that are a few weeks younger and not ready for eating. One of them keeps escaping and wandering around with the muscovies. We have to keep putting her back in the pen because she can't figure out how to get in the same way she got out.

Speaking of Hal, he got a big doe yesterday with his bow. He's only been hunting a few days, the season opened October 1, because he's been working on plowing and disking fields for planting grain. He wants to plant more winter wheat today if the rain slows long enough and the ground isn't too wet (his previous food plot of rape failed). He didn't get home till just after 9 pm after he cleaned it and hung it in his barn. He'll bring it home today and my neighbor's son-in-law will be coming to get it. Hal has been getting into this "Deer Quality Management" these past 5 or 6 years by taking only does and giving them to neighbors who aren't as well off or don't have hunting opportunities. Apparently, the DQM is working because his trail camera has taken photos of 2 nice bucks, 8 points or larger. He's never seen anything other than spike bucks or poorly sized 4 pointers there before. We've owned this land for more than 10 years so he's very pleased.

Rocket and Luna are being their usual doggie selves, wanting to eat, walk, visit next door to get more goodies, etc. Luna is becoming much better at catching Frisbees, or else I am getting much better at throwing them. (Rocket never liked Frisbee, he would duck and then pick it up and bring it to me.) Neither of them understand that they also need to bring it to me, not drop it on the ground 5 feet away. I suppose I could train Luna better but retrieving isn't all that necessary for our enjoyment of life.

Looks like the rain has started up again. I probably ought to do something "useful" like clean the kitchen. Or play with Luna as she has just come upstairs to see what I am up to.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A New Duck

Because Uncle Butch has been in the hospital, I've been neglecting other news around the swamp. A week ago, I acquired a new duck, a muscovy drake, all white, from a lady in Hubbard Lake, MI who has been raising muscovies for 25 years. He's a lovely fellow and is getting along quite well with my 2 ladies. I was told he was born this spring.

Thus far he mostly hangs around on the deck, in the front yard, or down by the garage doors. A couple nights he decided to sleep in the duck pen with the rouen ducklings, but generally he's been sleeping on the railing with the ladies.

One of my two barred rock roosters will be moving to the farm this week otherwise he would have been eaten. He'll probably panic when I catch him but he ought to be very happy when he discovers there are no guineas or other roosters to pick on him. Plus, he gets his own harem of white rock hens. They're older ladies, but he probably won't mind. I think my FIL is hoping to get some fertile eggs to replenish his flock before they stop laying entirely.

I call him Squash because last month the chicken door fell on him and squashed him like a bug except that he lived. He's my only named chicken. (The one I named Spin Dry as a chick stopped spinning so I have no clue which one he is now.) Squash sure squawked when it happened, and ran under the deck to hide for half an hour when I picked the door off of him.

Rocket and Luna are well. Rocket seems to be enjoying this cooler autumn weather, he has quite a spring in his step for an 11 year old boy. Luna turned 3 on the 11th but we didn't really celebrate as that was the day after Uncle Butch went to the hospital. They are both a little unnerved by the free ranging guineas and chickens, I suspect they'll be happy when the flock is thinned out before the end of the year. There's at least 2 more months of chaos till then.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Uncle Butch is Better

According to the doctors, his multiple strokes were the same one taking its time "finishing up". I've seen Uncle Butch twice since the last one happened about 10 days ago and he is doing much better. His leg is moving with help from the therapists and he's now able to make a fist. His speech is improving too. Yesterday I drove his wife to the hospital and we and a bunch of his sisters, a niece and grandniece took him for a spin around the hospital in his wheelchair.

Today his dog Yogi is getting to go up for an outside visit with him. I may bring Rocket up next week depending on the weather. He says he misses him, too.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Uncle Butch is Sick

He's been in the hospital a week now. He had a stroke last Wednesday and several more in the hospital. I thought the medical profession had come a little way since my dad's stroke back in 1993 but it appears not to have. I can't believe that he's having headaches and they don't seem to be doing anything other than pain killers. The first stroke wasn't that bad, but the accumulative 3 or 4 he's had now has been rather devastating.

There really needs to be a lot more research into this sort of medical problem.

I dog sit for his two dogs while his wife is at the hospital. This is really lousy.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Moved Some Birds

I've got 15 chicks and guineas moved into the coop now. They spent 2 days locked in a cage on the floor so they and the bigger birds could get acquainted without bloodshed. Today while the big guys were free ranging I opened their cage and let them wander out. For the most part everyone stayed in the coop though there was much flying about. Eventually 3 of the smaller guineas decided to look around out in the run. They ended up at the far end, dug themselves a little hole and sat in it for hours. Around 5 pm 2 more guineas made it outside and then all 5 wandered around a little more. The larger chicks chose not to venture outside.

When it was getting close to dusk I lucked out in that the little birds went back inside so I could shut the chicken door and re-open the run door to let the 6 big birds in. At one point the chicken door fell open on top of one of the cockerels who yelled very loudly in a sort of squashed yelp. I ran back outside to lift the door off him and he ran under the deck to hide for a bit. I had a hard time getting him to go back inside after that but he appeared to be fine.

The new birds decided that most of them would not go back into their cage so I waited to see what would happen. The big birds took a long time to head inside. In fact it looked like they would rather sleep on the ground outside, hunkered in the corner farthest from the door but still able to see inside. Finally, they went in and and when I went to check they were up on their roosts, the little guys were on the floor and everyone was minding their own business. The real test will be tomorrow morning when everyone wakes up and I haven't gotten out there to open the chicken door yet.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I Had to BUY Zucchini

I never have to buy zucchini but I did this year. I grew 5 plants in my garden, as of today there are 3 tiny, less than 1.5 inch long, zukes. Pitiful. Most of my garden was pitiful this year. The incredible amount of rain we got at the end of spring turned everything soggy. (I can only imagine the state of farms and gardens that really got hit with the rain.) I got a decent enough supply of snow peas, some green beans, skimpy spinach, and a fairly good supply of leaf lettuce, but cucumbers, zukes, tomatoes and peppers have been a disaster. So I bought 6 small zucchini for eating today and 4 large ones for shredding into bread. I also bought 3 tomatoes so I can have a BLT sometime soon.

Maybe next year will be better.

One of my remaining 2 muscovies is lame. The gal can barely put her weight on her left foot. I have no idea how it happened, I was suspicious there was something wrong yesterday but I couldn't get close enough. Today her lameness is obvious. Don't know that there is anything I can do, just wait and hope it gets better. They're both on the deck railing again for the night.

I've caught nothing in the traps though the live trap was sprung. The wire in that trap is spaced too large to hold a mink.

I went kayaking with my neighbors yesterday, and 2 of Uncle Butch's sisters went with us. They were a blast and loved every minute of it. We had a great time doing the McKinley to 4001 Bridge run, the wildlife sanctuary. Not a lot of wildlife, though one of the sister's saw an otter. I saw blue herons, loons, king fishers and ducks. The sky was a perfect blue, no clouds at all, and the air temperature was 86f. Nice way to end summer. We hope to get at least one more river trip in this year, at the very least a fall color tour.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

No Ducks on the Pond Tonight

Hal and I managed to capture the 7 mallard ducks and put them in the garage tonight. Tomorrow we'll take them to his parent's farm for an unknown amount of time. I've lost 3 ducks this week, two muscovies earlier this week and one mallard drake last night. Seems to be happening every 3 days. I took the dinghy into the pond today and found the little drake's body. His body was still whole, bobbing in the water but his neck was laying on the bank, eaten down to the bones and his head was gone. There were feathers plastered up the side of the bank.

We bought a couple of spring traps yesterday thinking we were after raccoon, but having found the body in that state, it points to a mink. Those are nasty little critters who wander far and wide and come back over and over till the food supply is gone. They are hard to catch. It's possible I may not be able to keep my ducks. Not unless I can stop this mink. If I can't get it I'll have to lock the ducks up every night.

It's generally impossible to get the mallard ducks off the pond once dusk hits. So we spent all afternoon catching them with a net, one at a time, waiting for them to come back to the garage after they ran away in a panic. Can't do that every day. Nor do I want to pen them up 24 hours a day. What's the point of having a pond if I can't let the ducks swim in it?

If I do have to get rid of the mallard ducks I hope I can keep the muscovies as they aren't as pond oriented. We took the raft off the pond today so they can't sleep on it. Apparently, a mink can easily grab a duck from the raft, dragging it into the water and drowning it. I know that's where the 3 girls were sleeping the night one of them vanished. Better if the muscovies don't have the chance to sleep there anymore. Tonight the two remaining muscovies are sleeping on the deck railing only 12 feet from the bedroom door. That's at least 40-50 feet from the pond. But I still can't risk keeping them unless I can lock them up at night, too.

I've had better weeks.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oops, Rocket's Birthday

I could have sworn I already posted about this but that must have been on some other forum.

Rocket turned 11 last week, on the 21st. He had a nice breakfast of lamb and rice kibble with some "country stew" on top, followed by his usually walk through the woods to Uncle Butch's house where he spent the day, also as usual. A couple days earlier the morning was cool for August so we and Luna, of course, took a long walk down to Mud Lake where everyone had a dip and Rocket could also have a little fun walking through the big culvert under the road. He is an avid spelunker and has often squeezed his large frame into 15 inch diameter culverts. I try to persuade him not to do that because I fear he'll get stuck one day but he insists. So far, so good.

I also took him to the vet last week to have his blood and urine checked. He is on arthritis medication and it can cause liver and kidney damage. The vet says he's "tolerating the drug well".
I am glad as it's made a new dog out of him. Unfortunately, though it eases the pain, it can't fix his age. I'm afraid his right rear leg is going to give out on him eventually. Even now of it drags over a root or other ground obstruction it will collapse under him. He simply gets up and keeps going.

He's a wonderful dog.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Dawn of the Dead?

This photo depicts what sleeping baby guineas look like. To the unsuspecting they appear dead. Though I knew what to expect it's still a bit unnerving and I have to watch carefully to see that each one is breathing. Occasionally, one will be dead but generally those do look more dead than the rest.

These are the replacement birds sent to me by Estes Hatchery in Missouri free of charge after I lost 10 in the first shipment due to shipping stress. The weather last week was cooler and consequently, more survived. It's possible they were also treated less roughly by the post office. Of 21 birds one was DOA and another 3 died within 30 hours. One I managed to save but lost a different one unexpectedly. This morning I did not find any other dead birds.

Between these birds, the 11 left from the first hatchery shipment and the two that are 3 months old, I have 51 guineas. I am doomed. I do not have large enough facilities to house them plus the 31 chickens. At most, my 6 by 8 foot square coop could house 32 birds and that is pushing it. Eighty-four is nearly triple the number. There will be fights, picking of feathers, blood letting, and other nasty things birds do when over-crowded. Even eating the 2 adult guineas and 2 extra roosters now is not a quick enough solution. I really need another coop or temporary structure for some of these birds until mid December when some could probably be butchered at 4 months old.

And all this chaos is happening because I over compensated when I accidentally killed one of my first 3 guineas and wanted to replace it.

But until the housing problem looms larger as winter approaches the new keets reside in their box under the picture window of my living room. Their one week old cousins are on the opposite side of the house in the dining room. They can hear each other peep but I can't combine them, the boxes are too small. As long as they are getting enough to eat and being allowed to run all over each other they seem quite content although at times the older ones sound as though they are trying to barrel through the cardboard walls.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

More Keets Coming

Tomorrow, assuming the mail works correctly, I'll have replacement keets for the ones that died. I lost 10 of the 31 they shipped me and when I contacted them (while only 8 were deceased) I was told they'd send me 10. I expected to get a credit or refund because the website says they can only ship a minimum of 30. So either they're risking the 10 or sending extras. We've got the box set up tonight with the temperature already adjusted and it's big enough for extras should that happen. But if they really only send 10 I don't see how they can expect them all to survive when I lost a third of the first order. Still, that's better than the half lost from the other hatchery.

But as it stands now I have 21 keets in the dining room, 11 in the garage, 2 in the coop for a total of 35. Plus there's the 4 chickens in the coop and the 27 in the garage. This is way more birds than I bargained for. What was I thinking?!

In other news Hal and I (Hal mostly) rotated the duck pen 90 degrees in the garage for the ducklings to test it out. I lined the floor with plastic carpet runner and straw. We were able to block off the rest of the garage so now the ducks can only be in the pen or outside in the little fenced area. The garage is already feeling cleaner. Once I get the keets straightened out I can work on cleaning the garage floor of the excess straw, duck poop, etc. Then I can think about painting the duck pen the final coat. It's only primed so far, except for the back end which was inaccessible till Hal turned it around.

So much to do and so little time!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Chicken/Guinea/Duck Update

I couldn't resist the sale at a hatchery in Missouri called Estes so I ordered 30 more guinea keets. They were half the price I'd normally pay for them. The ones that arrived alive seemed well but soon the lavender ones started dying. As of today I've lost 6 out of 11 lavender and 1 of the 10 purple to seemingly the same thing. They stand erect, eyes closed, won't eat or drink, breathing only a little harder than the others. A few of them had "pasty butt" which is a clogging of the vent where they eliminate. I keep cleaning them but one died between 6 and 8 this morning when I fell back asleep. I've got another that I'm working with and he is peeping a little now when I pick him up to feed him with a syringe. I've got my fingers crossed.

I've upped the dosage of terramycin and put it in the water for all of them now, not just in the syringe for the sick ones. I probably should have started that yesterday, it seems treating them after they get sick isn't fast enough. They've only been here a little over 48 hours and things went downhill quickly. I hope this treatment will work.

However, a bit of good news is that one of the pearl guineas, of which there are 10, started having leg troubles, breathing troubles, etc and I began another all out effort to save him. I placed him in his own little container within the box because the others attacked his feet which stuck out behind him and quivered. I fed him a sugar/honey/electrolyte water mixture. I did this on the hour all day yesterday till about 3:30 pm when I went to my neighbor's to dog-sit for 3 hours. When I returned he was sitting up, feet under him and trying to hop out of the container. I placed him back inside with the others and I can't say which one he is now.

I had one duckling hatch, another brown rouen. Another egg pipped and then died. The other 5 don't seem to be doing anything at all. I suspect they're dead too. We'll have to rig up a cage with a light for this guy and put him in the garage with the month old ducks so he can know he's a duck. I don't want him imprinting on me and thinking he's human. There are 14 eggs left in the incubator which aren't due to hatch for another 4 days. After that batch I'm not incubating any other eggs this year.

As for my previous chick orders, I've named one chick named Spin-Dry. A gold laced wyandotte chick was not looking good a few days ago, sitting there rather ruffled and uninterested in life. We put him in a box indoors with his own heat lamp and started him on electrolytes. When we discovered he had blood in his diarrhea I added some old antibiotic I had from when we raised parakeets. I fed him via syringe, too and also added milk powder to his feed for extra protein. He started perking up within 24 hours but then started spinning in circles, always clockwise while
wandering around his box. A couple days later he was still spinning but also cheeping, looking up, seemed very interested in his surroundings and began drinking water on his own.

Yesterday morning I put him back with his buddies and he seems to be doing well. I marked his feet with a sharpie pen but it seems to have worn off already. I meant to give him a little extra antibiotic via syringe for a couple days but I can't tell which one he is unless he's spinning.

The remaining 11 keets from my first guinea order seem to be doing well also. Their side of the brooder is often populated with some of the chicks who have discovered they can fly over the 8 inch tall partition. Occasionally a keet will hop over and join the chicks but mostly, it's chicks doing the flying. Once they're capable of reaching 2 feet I may have to cover the pen to keep them inside. Can't have chicks running around inside the garage, it wouldn't be healthy.

In the meantime the semi-adult chickens and guineas in the coop are doing fine, free ranging and doing naughty things like sitting on my chaise lounges.

And the adult ducks just hang around the pond or the garage and demand to be fed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Chicks Arrived Today

And they all were ALIVE!! I was so very relieved. They sent me one extra of each type for a total of 27; 15 buckeyes and 12 golden laced wyandottes. Every chick was cheeping, running about and immediately began pecking at the food on the floor of their pen when I released them this morning.

I put them on the other side of a partition from the guinea keets who then panicked and stampeded into the back corner. I was afraid they would suffocate each other but eventually they settled down and spread out again. I'm not even going to mention how many of those are left because they seem to drop dead at a moment's notice. A couple of them are definitely not growing as quickly as the others, but if I lose any more now it's past 48 hours so I won't get a refund beyond what I lost by the end of business today. I'm not sure I agree with that since it's not my fault they shipped them over a weekend. Not much I can do about it other than lie about how many died and I just can't bring myself to do that. Guess mom brought me up right.

So, after I post this I'll check in on them one more time and go to bed and hope for the best.

(edited to add photo)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Disaster with my Guinea Order

Got a call yesterday morning at 9 from the local post office saying my bird order was arriving at 10. Turned out to be my guinea order, they were shipped early, as in Friday. They had to have spent more than 24 hours at a P.O. somewhere, I suspect Saginaw, MI else they couldn't have gotten here Monday morning since there only one truck leaves from Saginaw to here every day (except Sunday).

Six of the little keets were dead on arrival, one was actually still gasping but expired before I left the office. Two more died before 2 pm and another last night and one more this afternoon. They had shipped 23 and only 13 are still alive. When I called the hatchery to inquire what happened they told me they had hatched early. I don't know how that could have happened though I have ideas. Needless to say they don't normally ship at the end of the week for the obvious reasons, no delivery on Sundays. Three days without water in who knows what kind of temperatures.

They were a nice assortment too. Only 1 white keet out of 4 survived and that one almost didn't, but it did drink sugar water for me from a plastic syringe and recovered. Others I tried that with did not. There seem to be 5 pied and the rest are some sort of lavender or bluish. None were the standard pearls.

Tonight I prepared a mash of wet feed mixed with a little sugar to see if they could eat that more easily and though it took some time they attacked it like they'd found nirvana. I hope this gets them through this night.

The hatchery will refund my money for the dead keets but this shouldn't have happened in the first place.

My chick order also shipped yesterday, on schedule, but last time I checked the tracking number it took 8 hours to go from Fremont, OH to Toledo. That is nuts. They better make it to Saginaw tonight or else they won't get here tomorrow. They've got to make that one truck in the early morning or they will spend another 24 hours in chick hell.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ducks and Chickens and Dogs

The muscovy ducklings slept outside last night by the pond. I was a little worried but as I couldn't get them back into the garage I hoped for the best. They're fine this morning. I actually chased them down to the pond a few days ago because they often spent all day in the garage while they're supposed to be eating bugs and learning to fly. Yesterday was the first day I saw them swim. They definitely aren't swimming much as the other ducks but I've heard that's fairly normal for their species. Then again they've only been in the pond one day that I can confirm, they may be taking their time getting used to it.

In the meanwhile the chickens are enjoying their free ranging experiences. I only let them out of the run while I'm around, no sense in living too dangerously. Only problem is they like to climb onto the deck. I don't know if they're simply curious or doing it to let me know they're hungry. They're supposed to be eating ants and ticks and grasshoppers, especially the 2 guineas. The Barred Rocks may not be the best foragers though. Hopefully, the chicks coming next week, the Buckeyes and Golden Laced Wyandottes will be better at it. Otherwise next year I'll try a couple other breeds I have in mind.

I do believe Rocket and Luna are well trained around the chickens now, too. They hardly look at them while they're scurrying about. They are very good dogs. I'm probably very luck to have them. I am certain my neighbor's lab would have little problem killing my chickens if he had the chance, though if he was trained not to, perhaps he'd be okay too. But I know his brother would kill in a heartbeat as he and his sister killed 51 chickens last year in his own backyard (jumped the fence into the chicken pen). That's another reason never to let the chickens out when I'm not around, those 2 are escape artists and have been here in the past.

But for the moment life is harmonious in the swamp.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Sweet Season's Above the Rim

That was the full name of a delightful little Brittany Spaniel owned by my good friend. Rimmy was 14.5 years old and this morning was buried in my friend's yard next to his daddy. He was a well trained bird dog and always nosed my pocket for goodies when Rocket, Luna and I visited. His eye sight was bad now, his hearing mostly gone, but he still liked my goodies.

We toasted his memory while my dogs and Rim's buddy Mikey played in the yard.

He will be missed.

Rim, you were a Good dog.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hey, Nice Stairs...

Hal came back from his camp yesterday with a set of homemade stairs strapped to the top of his SUV. He built them for the west side of the deck nearest the coop so I no longer have to walk the long way around every time I need to feed chickens. He's such a sweetheart! He even added a railing that is very secure since the posts are dug well into the ground. Now I just have to remember they are there and use them!

Friday, July 11, 2008

I've Got Pipping!!!

To those unfamiliar with the poultry world that means the chicks/ducklings/keets have cracked their shell with the point of their beak. In my case ducklings. In fact one is already completely out of its shell. I never knew it was happening, although this is day 28 of incubation till that one loud "PEEP". There's at least one other egg pipped an possibly another though it's hard to see into this odd round incubator/hatcher Hal borrowed from his dad.

Tomorrow the dry ducklings go into a brooder box, just an old TV box. Can't wait to see what kind of duck it is.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Chicken LIVES!!!!

I was out hourly till midnight last night force feeding the ill chicken that water/molasses mixture. I dreaded what I might find this morning but instead of one or more dead birds there were all 6 chattering and running about the coop! When I opened the door they veritably flew out into the run and ate heartily. I am very relieved! I can't even tell which of the chickens he was (other than knowing it isn't either guinea or the pullet.) I don't know if the purgative did the trick or if he hadn't ingested as much as the deceased guinea or a combination of the 2, but I don't care. He's alive, at least until we cook him for supper. But that's another 6 weeks away, and who knows, he might be the rooster we keep.

I raked up more of the dead leaves under the hollyhocks and took them away to dump where the chickens can't get them. I watered the areas thoroughly again to wash that diazinon into the soil. The chickens still aren't coming outside for a few days though, I'd like to have more rain and I may still water the soil in myself.

I called the hatchery I am getting my future chickens from to see if they had any guineas available. A lot of hatcheries are sold out or the wait is into October. I've been calling them every 2 weeks because they had many back orders to fill first. Today I lucked out and ended up buying 20 assorted guineas! Wait till I tell Hal. He should be happy to know I didn't have to order 30 which is the minimum for many others. They should arrive the same time as my chicks, end of July. I'm going to be up to my ears in baby birds!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One Guinea is Dead

I put them back in their pen just before 6 and by 8 pm one was already stiffening. I suspect diazinon poisoning. I had sprinkled some around the base of the house last week to kill ants. Since then we've had rain but apparently some of the crystals had not washed into the dirt. The birds had foraged under the hollyhocks next to the chimney, when I checked the area, there were still piles of diazinon on some of the dead leaves. If I had raked the area in the spring, this wouldn't have happened. If I'd checked to be sure the diazinon was all absorbed this wouldn't have happened. If I'd waited another week to let the chickens out.... etc, etc.

One of the chickens isn't doing well either. He's listless and breathing fairly hard. I've tried a purgative of molasses water, all I can do is cross my fingers and wait, and hope some of them will survive.

What a lousy way to end the day.

A Little Gardening

A beautiful breezy day so I weeded the veggie garden a little and discovered that my snow pea plants had pods big enough to pick. A couple more days and they ought to be really producing. I picked the largest ones and stored them in the fridge, should have enough in 3 days for quite a feed. May have to make a Chinese recipe.

Last year I bought 3 rose bushes from a place in Utah called High Country Roses. What I liked about their roses is they are not grafted onto different root stock but grown on their own roots. As I live in Zone 4, it's pretty cold in the winter and the usual bushes one finds for sale at the box stores (even at nurseries here, which is ludicrous) are hybrid teas that can't really survive those kinds of winter temps. So I bought 2 for myself and one for my mother-in-law. Hers flowered beautifully this year, it's a red one called "Hope for Humanity". One of mine, called "Goldbusch" has had one flower so far this year, the bush doesn't seem happy in its current location, I must try more fertilizer and see if that helps. However, my other one, "John Davis", was covered in a mass of pink blossoms. Of course, it didn't occur to me till the flowers were fading to take a photo, but here is what is left. I need to trim off the dead heads.

I meant to buy a couple more bushes this year but was delayed and everything I was interested in became back ordered or sold out. It's just as well that I'll be waiting another year, the new poultry hobby is taking up enough of my time. There is still plenty of yard work and weeding, etc that I have to get back to as well. For instance I need to mow the driveway, it's dirt, and the grass in the center is a little tall. I did finally weed what's left of my rhubarb, the plants have gotten very spindly because they were shaded out by all sorts of broad leaf weeds. I hope they can recover otherwise I'll have to acquire more from the neighbor I got the last batch from and that's a lot of work.

Perhaps I should go out and do some of this now while there is still daylight. No time like the present!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Home on the Range

Today I also let the chickens and guineas out of their pen for their first official taste of "free ranging." They did not sprint out immediately, but within 8 minutes or so, they were all outside, yet staying close to the pen. About 20 minutes later they went back in, then they wandered out again and proceeded to circle the run and coop. Several times. Eventually, they wandered farther afield, occasionally one would become interested in something and not realize it was alone for several seconds. Then it would make a mad dash back to its buddies. The guineas would call very loudly if one got separated, too. They also test nibbled every piece of greenery within the reach of their short little necks.

I never realized watching chickens could be so restful. Hal and I spent quite a long time sitting on our lounge chairs, sipping ice water (the day was hot and humid) and making jokes about their antics.Apparently, they have come to recognize me as provider of FOOD because when I got out of my chair and walked away, they followed. In fact when I raced down to the pond to rescue the poor male duckling they chased me across the front lawn, through the balsam firs lining the driveway and would have run into the driveway if Hal hadn't closed the gate. It didn't bother them at all that Luna was laying under the trees staying cool.

Luna was a very good girl the entire time the birds were outside. I don't know whether the weather had anything to do with her lethargy but she pretty much ignored them. After the first 20 minutes I took her off the leash. But I played it safe when I went into the house and rounded up the last 3 birds (the other 4 were already back inside) and locked the coop gate. Next I have to see how Rocket reacts. He spent the day at Uncle Butch's which made it easier on me, testing only one dog at a time. I remember him drooling constantly over the first ducklings he ever saw last year. He ignores the ducks now, hopefully he'll ignore the chickens and guineas.

Ducky Peyton Place

So I've got these 2 groups of ducks, the original 4 and the momma and her 3 ducklings. The ducklings are fully feathered and momma has been trying to take them swimming. The WBKs, however, want nothing to do with them and have continuously harassed them including trying to mate the poor female duckling who is still too young. The two big males have constantly ganged up on her and I've had to resort to "violence" to separate them. (We won't discuss how I intimidate the big boys, suffice to say there is much yelling, waving of arms and poorly aimed stick throwing.)

A few days ago momma duck decided it was time to start laying eggs again so she started chasing the pekin, and then the rouen so she could "get some". Suddenly, the shoe being on the foot, the big males were running away, wanting no part of her. Apparently, they like to chase, not be chased. Now the ducklings were not being molested and could swim happily about while momma harassed the big boys.

Today, though momma is still pursuing love, the rouen decided to attack one of the male ducklings and mate with him on the water. Now being another male, I would guess the duckling was appalled, even if it was only a dominance thing, he wasn't happy. He certainly squawked as loudly as a male can, which is a bare whisper, but the big nasty rouen had him pinned and pushed his head under water. Even when the poor guy dived, the rouen went after him and both came out with the rouen still on top. Then the pekin tried to help the rouen. At this point I was back to arm waving, yelling, threatening them with roast duck dinners, and ineptly throwing sticks. Finally, they relinquished pursuit and the poor duckling, minus some neck feathers, pulled his bedraggled self onto the bank.

And now to top it all off, momma duck has deserted her ducklings and rejoined the other side. The ducklings must now fend for themselves; they quack mournfully and momma quacks back but does not come. If they only knew that soon they themselves will have youngsters to beat up on as more ducklings should be hatching this weekend.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Another River Trip

About 85 degrees, clear blue sky, light breeze. So 3 of my little kayak group got together for another short trip, about 2.25 hours down the Au Sable from McKinley Landing to the 4001 Bridge. Lots of canoes and tubes today. Quite a few fishermen too. Consequently, there weren't many wildlife viewing opportunities with all the people. We did see a couple different flocks of ducklings. Otherwise only a couple seagulls and a crow.

Felt really good to be on the river though after all the coop/run building of the past couple of weeks. Of course, I still have 2 more coop walls to paint but there are only so many perfect days on the river available. Have to make the most of it.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

More Poultry Stuff

Yesterday morning I mucked out the Cornish chickens' pen. Six weeks of endless pooping by 20 chickens made for a nasty bit of work. The smell was and is atrocious, it's all been dumped in a pile at the edge of the swamp. I keep hoping rain will knock the smell down but, of course, suddenly it's sunny for days on end! I'm not sure the chickens even appreciate it. They also got a brand new 4 gallon water fount so I no longer have to refill the 1 gallon founts 3-4 times a day.

Once that was done, I cut a hole in the side of brooder box the Muscovy ducks are in and spread newspaper and straw over part of the garage floor, the rest of the garage Hal and I partitioned off. No more duck poop everywhere in the garage. The little muscovies took all day but they finally came out for a few hours, even spending some time in the makeshift outdoor pen just off the garage door. Today they seem to prefer the inside of their box. The momma duck and her 3 kids are still sleeping in the garage at night also, but from what I could tell yesterday the 8 ducks all got along. I suppose it will take a few days for the very skittish muscovies to get used to things. Hopefully, seeing my cordial interaction with the other ducks will make them less scared.

The coop needs a second coat of paint, after it dried there are obvious thin spots. It does look good from a distance though. I did take some photos today, I just have to get them off the camera.

Took Rocket and Luna on a slightly longer walk through the dry part of the woods today. The weather was beautiful, 69 degrees, blue sky, low humidity, even the mosquitoes and deer flies seemed to be less abundant. Afterwards I sat on the deck on my new chaise lounge and finished reading my book, The Terror, by Dan Simmons.

Tomorrow is Independence Day. I may watch the parade (I've seen it every year since I moved here) and of course, I'll watch the fireworks. They are very well done. Otherwise, it's just me and the pups, Hal went back to his camp today for some well deserved rest after finishing building the coop and fixing an old incubator of his dad's.

Time to post this before it is tomorrow. (edited 7/6 to add photo)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Finished Painting the Coop

Except for some minor touching up the coop is done. The red color we picked turned out nice and dark which is exactly what we wanted. It blends in nicely with its surroundings. I spent about 4 hours painting. Even though there are 2 coats of primer, the surface was still so rough it took lots of paint on the roller to fill the divits in the OSB. I may take a couple days off before I do any touch up. (Besides thunderstorms are predicted the next 2 days.)

Today's weather was beautiful, breezy, low 70s, and NO humidity! The chickens and guineas enjoyed being outside the coop too, once they got used to me and Luna moving about while I painted. The ducklings got some swim time in on the pond too without too much harassment from the WBKs.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can spend a little more time with my pups, I've been neglecting them while trying to get this coop finished. We did go on a longer walk today though, so I haven't been totally bad. Maybe the rain will hold off till the afternoon.

Finished the Fence - Ate a Chicken

Hal finished the fence for the coop yesterday. He secured the plastic netting to the top with zip ties, then ran a nylon rope through the top on the diagonal to lift it a bit higher in the center. Then we opened the chicken door and sat back to watch nothing happen. Eventually, we went back into the house to watch TV and watch the coop through the window. Finally, the first head peeked out then disappeared back inside. Next time we looked over a whole bird was sitting on the ramp. Soon all 7 were outside having a wonderful time pecking at the ground and testing their wings. (I say 7 because the night before the crippled chicken passed on.)

They were able to enjoy the outdoors for about an hour then a thunderstorm rolled in and a torrential downpour caught them unaware. They were clueless and instead of running inside ran to the far end of the run and hid under a cross beam. I waited a few minutes till the rain diminished then donned raincoat and boots and tried to shoo them towards the door from outside the pen. Still clueless they wandered aimlessly so I went inside, bent over of course since the fence is only 5 feet high, and tried to herd them back to the ramp. No go. I had to grab the first bird I could, a barred rock chicken, the guineas are too fast and flighty, and popped him through the door. Did the others follow? No, so I had to grab another. When I managed to get the rest near the door, I persuaded one to head up the ramp and the rest followed. I hope when I let them out today going in on their own will be an easier concept for them.

Earlier in the morning we decided to kill one of the meat chickens which had developed leg problems and couldn't stand up. She was barely eating (compared to the ravenous frenzy of the others) and was definitely not gaining the weight the others were. Hal did the deed with a hatchet, I watched from a distance. Then we let it drain, scalded it by dunking the bird in 150 degree f water 3 times, then plucked the bird. Hal showed me how to gut it and I got to finish cleaning her up inside the kitchen sink while he finished working on the fence.

It weighed barely 2 pounds once the neck and feet were removed. Cut up and fried it was delicious. Hopefully, the other 19 will make it through to 8 weeks (they're almost 6 now) and we can have the Amish process them all at once. I'm looking forward to meatier birds and a much less smelly garage.

Assuming it doesn't rain today (it's very breezy and sunny at the moment) and things dry out, I could try painting the final coat on the coop.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fence Started

Yesterday Hal and I started building the fence for the coop. I went to the hardware store, bought some fence staples, lag screws, gate hinges and latch and the red paint for the coop itself. He had 2 post holes dug when I got back and the 2 biggest poles (for the corners) in place. I dug 4 more holes while he cut more cedar for the cross braces.

This is how it looked just before we quit.

Today we hope to attach the chain link (used from his dad, so it was free) and he'll build the gate. We also got some free aviary netting from his dad, it needs repair but it should be easy enough to do and should do a fine job of covering the top to keep hawks outside and chickens in.

Looks like the sun is coming out, rained during the night. Time to go to work.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

There are Chickens in the Coop

Hal and I put them in today, the guineas and the barred rocks. He came home early today and fixed the doors which had swollen a bit with the humidity. I finished priming the outer surfaces. Then I got to clean their old brooder in the garage and move the Muscovy ducks into it. They have remained skittish and easily panicked since I brought them home 3-4 weeks ago. The escaped the crate and tried to dive between the straw bales. We managed to finally corner them and plop them into the brooder.

Hal also brought a large humane trap from his dad's farm to try and catch whatever is killing my ducklings. They've been spending the last few nights in the garage again because the WBKs keep chasing them back into the garage every time I let them out. They haven't been able to swim in the pond for over 24 hours because of the big white Pekin male.

Tomorrow we will start digging post holes for the fence outside the coop. We've got 65 feet of used chain link fence and a lot of aviary netting to go over the top. I know this set up isn't predator proof for night time, but the intention is only using the run during daylight when I am grocery shopping or kayaking. It will be for keeping stray dogs and haws and eagles out. At night everyone gets put back in their tightly made coop. Hopefully, the guineas will agree to this arrangement as well, but I have heard they are notoriously stubborn. Three more weeks and the meat chickens will go to the Amish for processing and then my next batch of chickens will be arriving. This is turning into a very busy summer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

And Now I Have Only 3 Ducklings

After keeping them inside for a couple weeks to get bigger I let the momma duck and her 4 kids out. In the morning there were only 3 and no body. We figured raccoon or snapping turtle. A raccoon usually leaves body parts so I was leaning towards turtle. Hal built me a wire box trap that floats partially submerged to catch a snapper. After its float test my friend who is visiting heard a lot of buzzing and found the partial carcass of my missing black duck. It was only a few feet away but it was not there the day before. I think Luna may have found it and dragged it into the yard. We used what was left of the poor thing to bait the turtle trap. However, finding the body does point to raccoons, the head was completely missing.

We set the turtle trap in the pond yesterday and I set up a food baited barrel with a ramp near the pond. This morning there isn't anything caught. I am kayaking today so I am not letting the ducks out. When I do they are visiting the pond in daylight and then spending the rest of the day and night in the garage. They know it's still out there. Perhaps I'll have caught something by tomorrow.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Bits and Pieces

Moved the 4.5 chicks and 3 guineas into the garage today. They were getting a bit large for the TV box in the dining room. Plus the guineas were getting very vocal and that is very annoying while watching TV. Chick 0.5 is still alive though I am not sure how. His head and feet are larger, he's getting feathers, but weighs next to nothing. He refuses to give up and won't let me keep him in a box by himself to prevent him being stepped on. I can't imagine he can live much longer. The other chicks are 4 times his size now. Today one of the guineas got out of his box and Hal found him sitting on a jar on the dining room table. Fortunately, the guinea was easy to catch, possibly in shock as to the size of things outside the box.

Hal also added the man door to the coop today and began work on the chicken door. Not easy working outside when it keeps raining. We've had a lot of rain the past few weeks. Not as much as other parts of the Midwest but more than enough.

Tomorrow my best friend from high school will be arriving for a one week visit. I have no idea what we'll be doing though I hope we'll have better weather. The predicted temps for tomorrow are in the 50s, in June! I hope that doesn't last long, I'm betting we'll want to go kayaking while she's here. Yesterday I paddled on the lake for the first time this year with a woman I met on a paddling message board. She was up for the weekend and we were able get in a couple hours even though there were pop up thunderstorms all afternoon. We had to take shelter at the island when the first one came up very fast. It's very "interesting" watching lightening strikes from the edge of the water. I don't recommend it as a regular pastime.

I doubt I'll have much free time to post anything for the next week. Of course, I haven't been very consistent thus far so I don't know why I bother mentioning it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Chicken Coop

Did I mention I bought some chicks on my birthday? I ordered 14 straight run Buckeyes and 11 Golden Laced Wyandottes from a hatchery in Ohio. They're supposed to arrive July 30th, assuming the chickens cooperate. In the meantime I need a place to put them so Hal kindly started building me a coop. It's 6 x 8 feet with a shed roof.

The temperature was almost 90 that day, and the humidity was around 95 %. If it had hit 90 dgrees I would not have been able to prime the walls. As it was the latex paint was practically drying on the roller. Since this photo was taken the rest of the walls went up and I finished priming them yesterday. The OSB and rough sawn plywood soaked up nearly 2 gallons. I hope we can work on it again this weekend but we've had a lot of rain which makes it difficult. The smaller space in the bottom left corner is where a chicken door will be. There will be an identical one on the right bottom corner, too.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Two Ducklings Gone, Four More Arrive

A few days ago after a discussion with Hal it was decided to let the ducklings and momma out for good. I won't go into the reasons, suffice to say they had to leave. The 4 adults were up at the garage at the time and seemed quite expectant when I opened the garage door, in fact here are the 2 "wannabe baby killers" right outside the door.

However, upon seeing the size of the ducklings they had tried to annihilate a mere 2 weeks before, the big ducks turned tail and ran away. Since then, other than a few squabbles over food the 2 groups have kept to themselves.

Unfortunately, that night the 2 brown ducklings disappeared. There were no bodies, no signs of what happened so I suspect owls or raccoons. Probably owls. They were the purebred rouens, one the largest and the other the smallest. I have tried to get momma and the ducklings in at night but they refuse. So far the rest have survived. I have my fingers crossed that they will make it but I harbor no illusions. Next time the ducklings will be larger before I let them outside, whatever "good" reasons there are for early release.

This morning momma duck actually brought the kids up to the garage for breakfast. I managed to snap a good photo of the survivors.

On a happier note, I finally got my 4 Muscovy ducklings from the local Quaker farm. I picked them up bright and early Saturday morning from the owners. They were probably about a week old, I can't remember the exact date she said they hatched, but it happened while I was in Massachusetts, so sometime around May 31/June1. I was amazed how similar their coloring was to young rouens, 3 especially seemed to have similar brown markings but where the rouens are grayish, these are yellow.

At first we placed them in a small box but decided that would hold them about a day, they are incredible jumpers, so we had a mini brainstorm and pulled out Rocket's old wire crate. I covered it in newspaper to keep them from escaping between the bars and covered the floor with straw. It is quite a large space and should do well for them for at least the first 30-45 days. After that, we'll have to see what we can do. They are supposed to be excellent bug eaters and good mothers. I hope to get one good breeding pair out of the batch.

Breaking News

As I was getting ready to publish this post I saw the ducklings following the WBKs up to the garage to eat supper. I took some lettuce down to them and somehow, without too much difficulty, managed to chase momma and kids into the garage and shut the door. Now there isn't a pen for them anymore, there are 20 Cornish crosses living in it now, but I tossed straw onto the floor, gave them water and food and though momma is squealing to be let out, I think I'll feel a little better if I can get another few days growth on them before letting them back outside. At least they can stay till Hal returns from his hunting camp later this week.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Returning Home

I leave for Michigan tomorrow around noon. Since Luna and I are stopping in Buffalo for the night there is no sense leaving earlier as it's only a 7 hour drive. I probably didn't mention I've been in Massachusetts for a week. Brought my mom home last week. She seems happy to be here, too.

The weather has been beautiful. Mostly in the 70s and sunny. Only very humid one day and then we had rain to wash it all away. My older sister spent the weekend here as well. Last Friday our little family went to the Salem Cross Inn for dinner; me, mom, older and younger sisters and YS's BF. Very good food. There was a surprise min birthday cake for me, too. For dinner I had the prime rib and it was cooked perfectly. Mom had broiled cod.

Unfortunately, it looks like seafood affects her gout and makes it worse, she had an attack on her right wrist yesterday, used to be only in her thumb. No more seafood for a while. This morning it is better, a bit sore, but not painful to the touch. What wonderful things I may have to look forward to when I get older.

Back home in Michigan Hal has been busy building my chicken coop. It's my birthday present. He's named it the Poultry Palace. It even has oak floor boards. Of course, those boards will be buried under a foot of sand, dirt and leaf litter but he says it will be dry enough that it should last 15 years. Between the oak and the wire buried underneath predators should have an awful time trying to get in and eat my birds.

A few days ago I called Meyer Hatchery in Polk Ohio and ordered myself 25 chicks. Fourteen Buckeyes, a mahogany colored bird developed by a woman in Ohio early last century, and 11 Golden Lace Wyandottes, a regal gold tinted brownish bird. I bought straight run because it's cheaper than pullets only (future hens) and the extra roosters will become dinner unless my FIL would like one for his ladies. I only want about 10 birds total (so far, anyway) and I figure this is a good way to start fairly cheaply.

While the hatchery person and I discussed my selections she told me that the hatchery had only sold about 15-20,000 chicks last year and in just 2 months this year they've already sold 10,000! It's a veritable chicken explosion! That information well matches the chaos at the feed store when I picked up my barred rocks. There are chickens everywhere. Are people growing their own food because they're afraid prices will not stop escalating?!

As for my barred rocks, etc, Hal says all the chicks are doing fine and the crippled one is still hanging on though he isn't growing as fast as the others. Poor thing, but if he wants to live I won't put him out of his misery yet. He also says the guineas are starting to make a sound he thinks might be their alarm call. It's very quiet so far but he can tell it will probably get a lot louder when they're older.

So Wednesday afternoon I will be back home. Luna will be ecstatic. She'll probably run right over to Uncle Butch's the moment I let her out of the car. At least Rocket will know I've come home when he sees her show up. He might even be happy to see me.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Luna Saves the Day

Today was a beautiful, 67f, sunny day. The duck and the ducklings had been cooped up since Wednesday, so I figured I'd let them out and escort them to the creek which ought to keep them amused. HA! Walked up to the house to see if my mom wanted to come outside and sit and there was momma duck escorting the ducklings into the pond! Apparently, the shallowness of the creek (hasn't rained much lately) did not amuse her though the ducklings had found it delightful, so she took matters into her feet and made a foll out of me again.

Fortunately, the "wannabe baby killers" (WBKs) were snoozing under Hal's truck, so I let momma and ducklings have a very good time for 2 hours in the pond. Mom got to watch them play, too. Then something occurred to the WBKs and they headed for the pond. Probably they heard idiot momma quacking loudly. I spent the next 2 hours keeping the 2 contingents separated by throwing the ubiquitous sticks again and again. At one point the WBKs were preening on the bank and idiot momma wanted to take the kids out at that end. As they approached the bank, l'Orange plopped back into the water and made a mad dash into the ducklings, separating one out and trying to whomp him on the head to drown him. Another stick took care of that and the stand-off continued.

Finally, the WBKs (frustrated I assume) swam to the north end looking for choice edibles and momma and kids climbed onto the bank. Now the question was how to get her back to the garage. If I got too close, she'd just dive back in and the whole thing would start over. Hal suggested throwing small sticks between her and the pond but that did not phase her. Then a light dawned as I saw Luna laying in the shade behind me. I called and asked her if she'd like to swim? She ran right up to the pond edge and I threw a stick. She dove right in after it, the momma duck watching. Then Luna, instead of heading back to me, took her stick right up the bank momma was sitting on. That drove momma and ducklings far enough away from the pond edge that I could skirt around between them and the water and chase her back to the garage.

Hal knows not to let her out while I am gone. Those ducklings need to be much bigger. One of these days I will learn momma duck is too fast for me and just not let them out!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Hectic Week

Besides having the chicks arrive on Wednesday this past week, I ended up taking my mom, who is visiting, to the ER for shortness of breath. This is the second trip to the ER since I picked her up on May 1st. The first time turned out to be bronchitis. This time the doc just had to adjust her medication and she was much better next day. We have decided to take her back home the day after Memorial Day, she misses her home. Maybe next year things will work out better. I had hoped she'd stay till the middle of June, but the below normal temperatures haven't helped her enjoyment here either.

The chicks arrived late, on the coldest day we've had so far in May. Only 49f for the high and it was raining. New born chicks like to be kept at 95 degrees. The feed store was mobbed with people
picking up their birds and the noise of 100s of cheeping birds was incredibly loud. It was nothing like this last year, no where near the numbers of birds or people. I can only assume the high price of eggs over the winter and the rising cost of food is making a lot of folks think about growing their own food.

Besides the "meat" chickens which are Cornish X's and living in the garage at the moment, I got 3 guinea fowl and 6 barred rocks. Before I even got them home I could tell one BR had leg trouble, and another one was lethargic. Both of them had legs paler in color than the other 4. The lethargic one began gasping yesterday and died sometime in the night. The other one seems to have paralyzed legs but is gamely trying to eat and drink. I'm a little worried about another one's breathing, I've treated the water with vitamins and antibiotics, I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Day After

It's a beautiful day here and momma duck wanted out so I made a way for her to escape the pen but not the ducklings. She wouldn't leave without them. So, I enlisted my pups, got a chair, the plastic rake (and camera), made sure the wannabe baby killers were in the pond. Then Rocket, Luna and I escorted the family of 7 past the pond (dogs are great deterrents, just have them lay down between the pond and the trail!), under the power lines and to the culvert that flows from the swamp into a little pool. Once momma figured out she could go there and NOT into the swamp itself (that's when the rake came in handy), she and the youngsters had a grand time. The two oldest even dove and swam under water. The others paddled about and everyone nibbled at the edges of the mud banks. After about an hour mom kept climbing the bank and looking around, presumably at me and the dogs, to see where we were.

I suspected, she wouldn't get the ducklings out with us all sitting there, so we left the area. I placed Rocket by the pond again, and took Luna up to the house. Next thing I know, there they were right where Rocket had been (he stayed till the last second but decided he wanted to be with me and Luna, too). Momma may have been looking at the pond, then again, she may have just been wary as to the location of the wannabe baby killers. I took no chances and ran to the pond and stood there till she and her ducklings headed toward the house. Then the dogs and I slowly walked behind while they waddled back into the garage.

They are now safely enclosed, momma on her eggs, and the 6 in a semi-circle under the heat lamp. I can't do this every day, too time consuming, but at least a couple times a week wouldn't be bad. The next time, I'll get Hal to watch them at the culvert while I replace the straw in the pen.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dangerous Ducky Drama

Things got a little frenzied this afternoon. I popped down to the garage to check on the ducklings and mom and 4 of the youngsters were gone. The 2 youngest were snoozing in the nest under the heat lamp. I ran upstairs and looked out windows and saw nothing, so I grabbed my raincoat (why does craziness always happen in rotten weather?) and put on my mud boots and raced to the pond. There was mom, and the 4 ducklings on a slippery log in the middle of the pond. The 2 older ones seemed fine but the other 2 are only a couple days old and kept sliding off the log.

Now the other 4 adults had been on the bank but at that moment decided to go swimming. I have heard that adult males will attack and kill ducklings so I stuck around to watch and hoped that mom would soon herd her charges back to shore and into the garage. No such luck. Next thing I knew the big white male charges the log, attacks mom and everyone falls into the water. The ducklings scatter, then 3 form up on mom but the 4th swims towards me. Then the other male made a beeline for it and tried to drown it by slamming it into the water with its head. I yelled, grabbed a stick and threw it at the duck. The big 4 regroup and I madly dashed about the pond looking for sticks because there is never one right where you need it.) In the meantime Luna thinks I'm going to throw the sticks for her to fetch.

Now of course, it's raining harder. Mom duck and the kids head for the opposite shore and scramble onto it while I throw sticks to make the adults swim the other way. Then I run to the garage, get a pot and stuff some straw into it, grab the plastic rake and race to the far side of the pond, hoping to approach slowly and catch the ducklings. I think it would have worked if there hadn't been this stupid shrub in the way, entangling the rake tines. Mom and the kids panic and head back into the water and of course, head toward the wannabe baby-killers. More stick throwing and yelling ensues. Mom and the kids duck into the brambles on the side nearest the garage again, but this time at the steepest part of the pond. I can't tell at that distance if the littlest ones managed to climb up since they are as black as the mud. Only one thing to do now, get the dinghy.

First I run back around the pond and up to the house and ask Hal to come down to the garage and keep watch on the 2 youngsters because I figure that's when the baby-killers will show up to attack them, while I'm on the water. I manage to drag the dinghy from its winter location behind the house, on its side to squeeze between the SUV and the deck supports, then flip it onto its bottom and drag it to the pond. I've got the rake, the straw pot, the oars, and Luna whom I get inside after I get the thing in the water. Of course, I've put it in the water wrong end first and end up having to row frontwards (instead of backwards, if you ever row a dinghy, you'll know what I mean). But, I get over to the pond edge and can see mom duck and 3 of the babies. As I get closer they panic and run up the bank. I look everywhere for the fourth and finally find him shivering at the edge of the water. It is indeed too high to climb. Luna sees the duck and is VERY interested but like the good girl I have trained her to be does not pounce. Carefully she switches boat ends with me so now I'm sitting in water on the bottom but at the pointy end of the dinghy while she is at the back end wondering why I keep banging her with the oars.

I take the plastic rake and try to scoop up the duckling, several times. However, every time I get close enough and ship the oars, I float away. In the meantime while yelling to Hal, I learn the others are back at the garage and he herds them in and shuts the door. Finally, I grab a couple of raspberry bush branches and pull myself in far enough to grab the duckling and plop him into the straw pot. I then row back to the shallow end, hand Hal the duck-pot and manage to slide my wet butt and Luna out of the dinghy and drag it onto shore. At last I get to go inside, change clothes and warm up.

It is now a couple hours later and the ducklings are all fluffed out. I lowered the heat lamp 6 inches, fed mom some lettuce and added electrolytes to the duckling water. The 4 who had the adventure seem to be waddling about fine, the 2 youngest who slept through the whole drama, are still hanging under the lamp at the far end of the pen. For the time being, mom and ducklings are confined to the garage. No more running about. I'll put a shallow pan of water in there for mom to bathe. I can't afford to let her take the ducklings anywhere near the males, she is simply too small to defend them against those big bruisers. The ducklings may be in the garage until they get their feathers. That is more than 2 months from now.

Stupid ducks.