Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall chores with pesky poultry

 Forget what the calendar says, fall is here. The fields of soy and corns are awash in shades of gold, and the occasional leaf flutters off the tree. Nights and early morning it is cold enough to see your breath, but thankfully no frost yet!

 The neighbor's granddaughter cuts the lawn at the small farm whenever it needs to be done. It's been her summer job for the last 5 years. This is the first year with the birds, and with the busy schedule of a 16 year old, we never know when she's showing up. The grass got long, and went to seed.. the birds happily snacking on the seeds. They go at it much like one goes at a straw pulled out of a milkshake, sliding their mouth along it. When she showed up late in the afternoon, the gang of course were all outside romping around. 

 At first the sound and sight of her flying across the yard was enough to send them racing towards the coop. I tossed out scratch hoping to lure the stragglers into the pen. It's not even a pen.. or a cage..  all those imply some sort of restraint.. and almost every one of the birds is able to escape. It is more a suggestion of where I'd like them to hang for awhile. No problems until the guineas decided she was too close to their hang out spot. Keet Richard, the lone dark guinea, had had enough and was going to chase her off. He charged, she stopped, she inched forward, he inched forward, she stopped. This went on for 10 minutes before I did the only thing I could do.. I ran in to the house and made a sign.

  Guineas = 50 points
 Roosters = 25 points
 Hens =  -10 points
 Followed by a big smiley face. 

 She laughed, waived her arms and Keet Richard lost his nerve. He ran back into the shrubs. She's had Guineas, but she's rather impressed at how confident these little buggers are.  She finished up quickly, and as she headed off to the next zone, Keet and the other Guinea boys charged out. In their minds, they chased her off. Keet's macho level was now at a new high. 6 birds all sharing 1 mind means something is always happening.

 I've given up trying to get the birds to sleep on the roosts at night. Each evening brings what my husband calls the "cluck shuffle" as they figure out where they want to sleep in the coop. Others have birds that pick their sleeping place and keep rather consistent. Mine.. don't. Ever. Alliances alter everyday, pecking order redefined. Last night's second stringer is tonight's upper roost dweller. Then.. there are the non-conformists that have taken to the nest boxes. The nestboxes are 15 inches cubed.. rather roomy. For 1 it is spacious, for 2 it is comfortable, 3 makes it a bit cozy.. but these knuckleheads have managed to squish 5 into the prime top 2 boxes that I have dubbed Boardwalk and Park Place. 

 Guineas sparring do something called "necking".. and if you've ever caught the "Gladiators" tv show long ago.. the part where the contestant faces off a "gladiator".. on a balancing beam, armed with what looks like industrial sized Qtips .. you have a good idea what necking looks like. A bit Rock 'em Sock 'em robots.. but with giraffes. They apply these skills each night on the chickens they deem are in their sleeping spot. Kate, the white male guinea, is particularly adept at up-ending usurping sleep spotters. Sticking his head and neck out under the tail area of said chicken, a quick nudge upwards and the problem is now fluttering about in the shavings below. A lateral game of "king of the mountain".. and true to current day contests.. no actual winner.

 There's a group of barred rocks that tend to sort of stick together. I can really only make out a few of the who's who by their coloring. I refer to them as the BUB's.. Bottoms Up Bunch. They can be found at any point, fluffy side up as they hunt for anything edible. The BUB's have taken to a new approach on things, therefore have deconstructed the compost pile. Much like their "pen".. this is now a "suggested compost area" that they gleefully fluff up and relocate daily. They are a busy lot and always on the move. I get stuck raking the lawn every time it gets mowed.. with guineas voicing their displeasure over the metal rake (to which I agree.. raking sucks!) and by the time I get done making piles, the BUB's have scattered the piles apart. 

 I should have known better. You know how things go when you have a huge list of things that need to get done today.. and yet not enough time to do it all.. so you multitask. I was in full blown multitask mode. I hoped straw in the nest boxes would make them less roomy. Maybe convince a few non-conformists to rethink their stance... maybe drop a few pegs.  At my 5'7" height, Boardwalk and Park Place are a challenge to clean out without a rain poncho. Wheelbarrow full, I was unloading in the suggested composting area when I heard the dog, who was moments ago sleeping by the coop, bark and then race off. (The dog hangs with the birds and will sneak out of the fenced backyard to sun himself near the coop. We think he dug a hole out somewhere in the raspberry patch..) I ran to check.. and he had a cat cornered in the mulberry tree. These feral barn cats are the biggest predators of chickens around here, hawks a distant second. I called the dog back, he ignored me until I used the magic I-mean-it phrase that overrides his rottweiler selective hearing... "Want a cookie?"  This distraction gave the BUB's just enough time to explode the bale of straw all around the coop. Butts up and fancy free they were having a ball scratching and kicking straw everywhere. The tractor gone.. the others wandered out from under the coop and joined the fray.

 Standard day I guess. Almost get 1 thing done and 2 more things get on the list. Crossed off my bucket list is adding fodder to some potentially interesting small town gossip.

 Courtesy of the guineas.

 Almost every morning I make oatmeal (right now cinnamon apple oatmeal), scrambled eggs with chives.. toast. Nothing too exciting (unless you are a chicken.. they go insane for oatmeal leftovers.) Simple pre-coffee question.. "hon, have you seen the scissors? I need to cut chives."

 "You are so like your mother."

 Ok.. to any guys reading general, that phrase is a one way ticket to Lonelytown. My husband and I are pretty snarky in the sense of humor department, a quality we both adore in the other. That sentence is the death knell to your sex life.. or rather the interlude to a series of leaps through flaming hoops of fire before you even think you are getting out of hot water. Just a heads up there.

 We were joking as always. Hence I told him to start looking for a girlfriend.. and he quipped "Don't threaten me with a good time."

 I grabbed the closest thing to fend off the cold.. which was a thick fluffy pink bathrobe, safety scissors from the craft drawer and braved the elements fearlessly. I was looking gorgeous. Rocking a hairstyle that screamed... "Yes.. I went to bed with wet hair!" part CarrotTop part "Kate plus 8" meets flobee.. camoflage colored clogs.. I was owning the mid-life crisis hangover look.. less the hangover. 

 Just the time you don't want to see a construction crew working on the street in front of the house. Grab chives, run inside.. I'm sure they can't see me that well.  Time to employ my suburban housewife ninja skillz.

 Like when you are a little kid.. and cover your eyes, you think other people can't see you. As I didn't have my glasses on.. I was really hoping they couldn't see me. 

 "doot-dah-dooo doot-dah-doo" 

 The shrubs shook as the guineas were scoping out new turf under the spirea hedges. A big red dump truck was crawling up the road to the crew. I'm trying to slink around the front porch to get to the chive patch.. then the dump truck pulls into the driveway. The guinea alert sounds.. all 6 pop out of the shrubs, lined up, heads stretched out.. egos inflated to super size. They were headed right at the truck at a run.


 I had to head them off. I am now quite positive the whole crew could get an eyeful of my radiant beauty as I ran down the drive. I got in front of the birds (now 30 feet from the truck) I throw up my arms, bright purple safety scissors still in my grasp. The birds were unphased.. jazz hands did not move them, they could still see the truck. Like a subway flasher.. I threw open my robe and scared the crap out of them. (The birds that is.. and yes.. I was clothed.. still scary ) Changing a birds' mind sometimes must be done manually. They ran back to the coop, I got the chives and went indoors. The truck unmoved, the whole crew now watched me.

 I chopped the chives up quick and tossed it into the eggs. My husband asks me "Why is there an "I heart BINGO" patch on the back of the bathrobe?" 



  1. Oh, Lord, you crack me up....still laughing...but, I love chives in my eggs...good girl.

  2. The days just seem to fly by! Luckily one embarrassing moment after the next seems to keep each one quite distinct. *sigh*


    I have yet to tackle much in the garden. Frustrating.. although not many seem interested in "today I picked a buncha berries, hopped a fence and swiped some plant material."

    Although seriously contemplating a wild game ravioli in a wild mushroom ragu recipe.

  3. Btw, ty Steven. :) Oh hey.. yer a squirrel man.. squirrel is mild flavored right? I think the season on them around here may have ended.. but the neighbor (and you) have me seriously wanting to try it.

  4. If you local squirrels don't feed on pine nuts, go for it. Yes, they're mild and very tasty. Eaten them all my life. Standard fare here in the South.

  5. So I am assuming you looked like a big bird with the bathrobe spread wide to scare them?

    Thats some funny stuff!!!

  6. Not sure how much pine nuts they eat.. how does that effect them? They eat a ton of other things though.. not too heavy on the pines around here. More a deciduous forest (oak, maple, honey locust, black walnut, hickory, chestnut, etc.)

    @ PP.. I was a football helmet and spatula away from being confused with a few of the nursing home creatives.

    "There isn't much to be seen in a little town, but what you hear makes up for it."
    Kin Hubbard

  7. You really should publish a book. Funny bird stories interlaced with garden knowledge, recipes and homesteading advice. I'd buy it!

  8. lol... they are entertaining, when you look back at it.. but they make it hard to get things done.

    Learning experience.. to which I can add odd discoveries like "how to get paint off a chicken." Still working on that discovery removal method. :/