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)